Country Focus: Solomon Islands (formerly British Solomon Islands)
By Graeme Kent
My edition: Soho Press, 2011
About the author: Graeme Kent spent eight years working in the Solomon Islands. One Blood is the second of three “Sister Conchita and Sergeant Kella” mysteries. The first is Devil-Devil, and the third is Killman. Kent has also authored several nonfiction books.
I purchased One Blood thinking it was the first book in the series. Cutting to the second book did not leave me at a disadvantage. Author Graeme Kent clearly lays out the main characters and their situations. The year is 1960. Sister Conchita, a feisty 26-year-old American nun, is shocked and saddened when a tourist—one whom she had spoken with minutes before—is found dead at the Marakosi Mission’s open house. Sister Conchita believes his death to be a homicide, but the authorities are writing it off as a heart attack.
When Sergeant Ben Kella arrives at Marakosi on another case, Sister Conchita enlists his help. Could the logging saboteurs he’s investigating have something to do with the man’s death? Or are the victim’s sinister traveling companions who have a dogged fascination with the islands where John F. Kennedy was marooned during World War II be responsible?
There are several reasons why the Solomon Islands provide a fascinating backdrop to this story: an impending transition from British protectorate to independent country; its history as a World War II battleground; and an indigenous population who claim headhunters as their ancestors. One Blood succeeds as a light, fast-paced, PG-rated mystery with a charming pair of protagonists.
[Sister Conchita] walked down the beach and waited for the policeman to drag his canoe up on to the sand. She was always pleased to see Kella, but was already experiencing her usual feelings of ambivalence about the burly Malaita man. She simply could not make up her mind about him. She had known him for less than a year, but already he had impressed her more than any man she had ever met. The islander was perceptive and intuitive, and she knew from personal experience that he was physically courageous. But, she worried, all these things had to be balanced against the fact that he was a pagan. More than that, he was a high priest of the Lau gods, elected while only a child to this office, charged to spend his life maintaining peace among the Malaitans.