BookBrowse Reviews Sun, Sand, Murder by John Keyse-Walker

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Sun, Sand, Murder

A Mystery

by John Keyse-Walker

Sun, Sand, Murder by John Keyse-Walker X
Sun, Sand, Murder by John Keyse-Walker
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  • Published:
    Sep 2016, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Mollie Smith Waters
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The remote, sun-drenched island of Anegada, nestled in the heart of the British Virgin Islands, is the rich setting for this debut mystery.

Sun, Sand, Murder – until that last word, the terms conjure images of a great beach vacation, not a crime novel. And while beaches are involved in this award-winning new mystery from John Keyse-Walker, it is a surprising page-turner.

Special Constable Teddy Creque's life has always been predictable. As the only form of law enforcement on the British Virgin Island of Anegada (see Beyond the Book), Teddy doesn't see much in the way of crime. A sparsely populated island, Anegada is a quiet place, remote from the world and all its problems. But when Cat Wells, a hot new helicopter pilot, begins making regular visits to bring supplies and the few tourists who visit the island, Teddy's life becomes – well – complicated. Cheating on his wife seems like enough chaos, but it's only a prelude of the changes to come. And when the body of a Boston University biology fieldworker is found with a bullet hole through his forehead, Teddy knows his quiet island may harbor more secrets and intrigue than he could have possibly ever imagined.

Sun, Sand, Murder was a pleasant surprise for me. Based on its title, I imagined the story would be cliché and a predictable crime work without much meat, and I almost skipped it as a review choice. Even the cover recalls memories of cheesy Miami Vice episodes. But this book is one of the reasons people say "don't judge a book by its cover," and, in this case, its title too.

Here's what I like about the book: Teddy's bumbling personality hides that he has a naturally investigative mind. He does stumble from time to time and gets off track once or twice, but even his mistakes are usually more misdirection due to others putting him off the scent instead of his own judgment errors. Also, the book explores a remote island where setting is crucial to the plot. William Faulkner is often hailed as the greatest writer of place. Without understanding Faulkner's Mississippi, one cannot fully appreciate the author's genius. Keyse-Walker's island setting of Anegada makes Sun, Sand, Murder. Its history of piracy and slavery, as well as its remoteness, allow the story to happen. Without those factors, the book would lose a significant part of what makes it so enjoyable.

It is also ripe with humor. For example, Keyse-Walker quips of Teddy's superior officer's sternness, "The deputy commissioner projected a gravitas that made the Father of the United States look like an unkempt slouch. A rigid six and a half feet tall, broad-shouldered and rock-solid, Deputy Commissioner Lane seemed to have skipped diapers and been born in navy blue uniform pants and a pressed khaki shirt." Later the author describes Lane's voice as being "one part Barry White, one part Sean Connery, and a smattering of God. The Old Testament version." I love the reference to Teddy's process in mastering crime procedure by channeling his inner Detective Lennie Briscoe from the television series Law & Order, one of my favorite crime dramas.

However, the main issue I take with Sun, Sand Murder is its use of dialect in the opening segments. I don't normally have trouble reading dialect. (I teach Southern literature, so I'm well versed.) Yet, understanding De White Rasta was a nightmare, until it wasn't, because it turns out the man's usage of local dialect is an affectation. After the first few chapters, this problem resolves itself. Unfortunately, I'm not up to speed on slang terms for "marijuana" either, so that took me a while, but I put that one down to my own shortcomings.

As someone who grew up reading Agatha Christie novels, I have always loved a good mystery. Sun, Sand, Murder is such a book. It nicely blends crime, history, setting, humor, and a good plot. The book is enjoyable on many levels, and I am hopeful that it is the first in a possible series.

This review is from the Sun, Sand, Murder. It first ran in the October 5, 2016 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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Beyond the Book:
  Anegada - BVI

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