The Sun is God
Based on real events, a story of murder set in the South Pacific before the First World War
It is 1906 and Will Prior is in self-imposed exile on a remote South Pacific island, working a small, and failing, plantation. He should never have told anyone about his previous existence as a military foot policeman in the Boer War, but a man needs friends, even if they are as stuffy and, well, German, as Hauptmann Kessler, the local government representative.So it is that Kessler approaches Will one hot afternoon, with a request for his help with a problem on a neighbouring island, inhabited by a reclusive, cultish group of European’cocovores’, who believe that sun worship and eating only coconuts will bring them eternal life. Unfortunately, one of their number has died in suspicious circumstances, and Kessler has been tasked with uncovering the real reason for his demise. So along with a’lady traveller’, Bessie Pullen-Burry, who is foisted on them by the archipelago’s eccentric owner, they travel to the island of Kabakon, to find out what is really going on.
Based on an improbable but true story, the novel offers a fascinating twist on the traditional “locked room” mystery, as only the island’s miserable few inhabitants can be considered suspects in the alleged murder. Prior, as reluctant a sleuth as has ever shuffled into the genre, makes for a blackly humorous guide to a palm-fringed, sun-drenched idyll that is both heaven and hell. McKinty’s 15th novel (if you include his young-adult titles) is an ambitious offering that incorporates a subplot exploring pre-first World War colonial tensions between Britain and Germany. But it’s the investigation of the central mystery, with its undertones of Paradise Lost, that proves most entertaining.