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A Disappearance in Fiji by Nilima Rao

Set in 1914 in Fiji, the main protagonist, 25-year-old Akal Singh, would rather be anywhere else in the world than in this far-flung colony. After a promising start to his police career in Hong Kong, the native-born Indian man was demoted to Fiji as punishment for making a naïve and humiliating mistake as a police officer, his career ruined by a pretty face.

Miserable, Akal is working on the hopeless case of a Night Prowler without getting any closer to catching the night-time offender.

But then an indentured Indian woman goes missing from a sugarcane plantation, and Akal is assigned the case as the only senior Indian police officer available. Those the plantation say she has run off with the overseer, the newspapers headlines scream it is a kidnapping. Akal is keen to prove himself, but he quickly finds himself invested in the case for many more reasons than just trying to redeem himself, as the cruelties of the indenture system are revealed in shocking clarity.

Beloved author Alexander McCall Smith is one of the many authors to endorse A Disappearance in Fiji, which I find particularly apt, as this debut novel reminds me a lot of one of Alexander McCall Smith’s books.

A Disappearance in Fiji is charming and full of warmth and wit. The characters are created with a great deal of heart and empathy, and this page-turning mystery also shows the impact of colonialism in Fiji with care and nuanced historical detail.

I look forward to Nilima’s next novel with anticipation. Her debut is first class!

Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Echo Publishing


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