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SUN, SAND, MURDER by John Keyse-Walker: Book Review

As Caribbean islands go, Anegada, British Virgin Islands, doesn’t stand out.  Overshadowed by its neighbors Tortola, Virgin Gorda, and the more than sixty other islands in the chain, it’s very low-key.  One of its two claims to fame is that it’s the only coral island in the group, with a rich assortment of wildlife, but that doesn’t bring in the tourists.  The other is that there never had been a crime committed on Anegada…until now.

Teddy Creque is the lone law enforcement figure on the island.  He’s not a policeman but a Special Constable, one who has never encountered a crime in his many years of patrol.  However, now he finds himself confronted with the crab-bitten corpse of a man who had been an annual visitor for several years, a man who quietly went about the study of herpetology without interacting very much with anyone.

Paul Kelliher, Ph.D., biologist and professor at Boston University, has been found dead by Anthony Wedderburn, a/k/a De White Rasta.  De White is, in fact, a British lord who has made his home on Anegada for some time.  He is always high on ganja, although no one has ever been able to figure out where he obtains his supply.  He talks in the patois of the island in public, but when he’s alone with Teddy he reverts to the Oxford English that is his mother tongue.

Never having been involved in an investigation, much less been in charge of one, Teddy is quickly removed from the inquiry into Kelliher’s death by Howard Tuttle Lane, deputy commissioner of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, who wants an experienced policeman in charge.  Furious at Teddy for moving the body, although obviously it was done to protect the corpse from further depredation by animals, Lane informs Teddy that as soon as the inquiry is completed and the murderer caught, he will be suspended without pay for two weeks.  The only reason the suspension does not begin immediately, he tells the special constable, is because he cannot spare anyone else to police the small island while they are searching for the killer.

Although Teddy’s professional life has been quiet up to this point, his personal life has not.  Several months prior to the opening of the novel, he met Cat Wells, the helicopter pilot who flies in the infrequent tourist from other British Virgin Islands.  It doesn’t take long for the two to start a passionate affair, making the married Teddy feel guilty and uncomfortable but not enough of either to stop seeing her.  Each time he promises himself that this time will be the last, but even as he’s saying it he knows it’s not true.  Cat is irresistible.

Sun, Sand, Murder is John Keyse-Walker’s first novel, and it’s a great debut.  The dialogue is sparkling, the setting glorious, and protagonist Teddy Creque is a wonderful addition to the genre.  He’s obviously in over his head trying to figure out what happened to Paul Kelliher, which he continues to do despite his superior’s order to leave the investigation to the professionals, but Teddy’s humanity and his knowledge of Anegada are working for him.  This novel won the Mystery Writers of America/Minatour Books First Crime Novel Award in 2015.  Sun, Sand, Murder is a wonderful read.

You can read more about John Keyse-Walker at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.