Even if you don’t live in the latest winter storm sow zone there has been no escape from the relentless media coverage of said storm the last couple of days. For this final Monday in January Kaye George brings us word of a mystery set in a warm island in the South Pacific. This also happens to be the first book in the four book Jungle Beat Mystery Series.
Pago Pago Tango by John Enright
This mystery is set in American Samoa, partly in Pago Pago, the capital, and partly on other parts of the island, including Tafuna Plain. This last place, a dense rain forest shunned by the natives, is where most of the Americans (called palangi) working in the South Pacific paradise live on the bulldozed, flattened land in their Western-style houses.
Detective Sergeant Apelu Soifua straddles the two worlds of the natives and the Westerners adroitly and maintains the law by standing somewhere between the cultures in morals and methods. He’s worked in San Francisco for several years, but has now returned to his homeland.
A few disconnected threads get the reader started: a theft from a Western house of a VCR machine and some videotapes, Apelu’s problems with his family life (sons and wife), a death in a national park which is discovered by Apelu and a prisoner who is not supposed to be out of prison. Gordon Trurich, executive at SeaKing Tuna, doesn’t seem as concerned as his vague, drunken wife about the tapes stolen from his house. But Apelu smells a rat. He’s also concerned for their teen-aged daughter.
I loved this vicarious trip to another culture. The funeral customs of Pago Pago figure into the picture, as do Apelu’s buddies who work on recreating native sailing vessels, and a local fence whom Apelu knows quite well.
Reviewed by Kaye George, Author of Broke, for Suspense Magazine