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Book review: <i>Another Sun</i> by Timothy Williams

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the cover of the book

Guadeloupe may look like a tiny island paradise owned by the French, but under the lazy tropical sun, Guadeloupe is like a political powder keg. How can an outsider like Marie Laveaud have any hope of representing the law of France here, when the reality is so different?

The story

Marie Laveaud has moved to Guadeloupe with her son Fabrice and her husband Jean Michel. Marie immediately got work as a judge of inquiry, but Jean Michel, a native of the island, is not so lucky. He seems to apply for lots of work, but doesn't get anywhere. While this is worrying to Marie peripherally, she has landed the case of her life – the murder of Raymond Calais.

Raymond Calais is a beke from a wealthy family, who squandered the land he inherited. When he is found shot to death on his property, there is only one logical person to blame; Hegesippe Bray. Some of Calais's land was rightfully his, and while Bray had been in exile in South America for the murder of his wife, Raymond Calais had taken the land back. The case seems like a slam dunk; the murder weapon is engraved with Bray's name.

But the case takes a turn, and Marie finds herself alone against a large wall of bureaucracy when she suspects that Bray is innocent. She begins to uncover secret corruption, revolutionary communist plots, and the deep unsettled nature of her new home. But what can she achieve when everybody just wants her to let lie? And she doesn't know just how close to home the revolution will hit.

The style

Another Sun has a fantastic sense of place. The lazy fans turning on the ceilings, the way poor Marie Laveaud is covered in sweat all the time, the cool tiles and the glasses of juice all scream tropics. It's an incredibly tactile reading experience, and that I enjoyed very much.

I'll admit, there's a lot going on in the story line. I actually discussed the book with a French friend, just to try and get a handle on it, because colonialism is tough and very much place-specific. But armed with just a little bit of knowledge about the history of those islands made me feel equip to read the story, which was compelling no matter how much background you start with. Because it isn't just a murder. It's murder, which becomes a murder followed by a suicide, which may not be a suicide. And then there's the history and the motivation of everyone involved, and why they behave like they do, all speculated by characters and police reports. And then there's the things the locals want to keep hidden, that Marie has so much trouble finding out, not to mention the complications of politics and corruption and who her bosses know and what they actually want coming out of the investigation. The only thing worse than corruption is corruption when you dont' know how to play the politics because you're a stranger, and that is what Marie deals with throughout the story.

The isolation of Marie in her adopted country is masterfully written, as his her strained relationship with her husband, mother in law, and work colleagues. She will always be a stranger, and has to deal with that while representing the law in a country far less civilised than her own. It's a really compelling read, even though it's a bit of a challenge initially if you aren't au fait with Guadeloupe in the 1980s specifically.

Who is this book for?

It did make me want to holiday to the tropics, even at the risk of communist revolution. It is also a very interesting insight into these little Carribean islands. So I guess if you're into that kind of thing, this is the book for you.

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I love Soho as a publisher. Their crime is always just a cut above.

In short

Title: Another Sun
Author: Timothy Williams
Publisher: Soho Press
ISBN: 978-1-61695-156-6
Year published: 2012
Pages: 316
Genre(s): Crime fiction, Political
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