A Disappearance in Fiji – Book Review

JoAdult Books, Books

A Disappearance in Fiji front cover

About the book

A Disappearance in Fiji

1914, Fiji: Sergeant Akal Singh would rather be anywhere than this tropical paradise – or, as he calls it, ‘this godforsaken island’. After a promising start to his police career in Hong Kong, Akal has been sent to the far-flung colony of Fiji as punishment for a humiliating professional mistake. Lonely and embarrassed, he dreams of solving a big case, thereby redeeming himself and gaining permission to leave. Otherwise, he fears he will be stuck in Fiji for ever.

When an indentured Indian woman goes missing from a sugarcane plantation and Fiji’s newspapers scream ‘kidnapping’, the inspector-general reluctantly assigns Akal the case, giving him strict instructions to view this investigation as nothing more than cursory. But as soon as Akal arrives on the plantation, he identifies several troubling inconsistencies in the plantation owners’ stories, and it seems there is more to this disappearance than meets the eye . . .

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What did I think?

Nilima Rao, the author, is word perfect in this crime novel. Drawing on her own research Rao clearly paints a picture of life in the Indian colonies of Fiji. When a woman goes missing, the case is handed to Sergeant Akal Singh to investigate, with instructions to make it swift. Central characters Singh and Dr Robert Holmes stay onsite at the plantation. Singh investigates the disappearance of the labourer, Kunti, and Dr Holmes tries his best to provide a medical service to the plantation workers. The language is beautifully engaging, I have never read such a glorious description of rain before!

The characters are consistent and believable and the unfolding story challenges any romanticised ideals of the indentured servitude program. At the start of the story Sergeant Singh is more focussed on his own career path, and making his family proud, than the case in hand. He wants to prove himself. You feel a shift in that outlook through the novel though as he realises there is more to the situation than meets the eye, and his insubordination in the final stages shows personal growth and a richness to his character.

The narrative is punctuated by newspaper articles at the beginning of each chapter. These were found by the author on microfilm in Fiji and add depth and a chilling reality to the descriptive presentation of the colonies. Almost 100 years since the abolition of slavery in the UK, it is startling to learn more about indentured servitude that was introduced under British rule.

I would recommend A Disappearance in Fiji to anyone who enjoys crime, mystery or historical fiction. I think you will find yourself rewarded with an excellent read.

Purchase link: Amazon UK

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About the author:

Nilima Rao is a Fijian Indian Australian who has always referred to herself as ‘culturally confused’. She has since learned that we are all confused in some way and now feels better about the whole thing. When she isn’t writing, Nilima can be found wrangling data (the dreaded day job) or wandering around Melbourne laneways in search of the next new wine bar. A Disappearance in Fiji is her first novel and she is currently working on a second.

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N.B. I was kindly gifted an ecopy of this book in exchange for my review. All thoughts are my own. For more information, please refer to my disclosure page.