M.M. Kaye, Death in the Andamans
Caroline Ophelia Phoebe Elizabeth Randal, known to her friends as Copper, is staying with school chum Valerie on the tiny island of Ross in the Andaman Islands. The vast majority of the population is Burmese, but there is a small British community on the island as well, and Copper and Val naturally form part of this society. At first Copper views the island as a paradise, especially when compared to her rather dreary life in London; and the most upsetting aspect of her visit so far is her feelings for Nick Tarrent, a visiting naval officer who is friends with Valerie’s fiancé. But everything changes one fateful day when a terrible storm leads to widespread destruction on the island, and one of the British plantation owners is found dead. His death is assumed to be accidental until another visiting officer, who happens to be a doctor, suspects foul play. Then the doctor himself is murdered, and it slowly dawns on Copper and the others that the murderer has to be one of them — the storm has cut off all access from the outside world. Can Copper and her friends unmask the murderer before he or she kills again?
I’ve finally read the last of M.M. Kaye’s “Death in…” books, and I’m sorry to have reached the end of them. They all essentially follow the same formula — young woman visits exotic location, falls in love, and becomes involved with a murder — but it’s a formula that appeals to me, so I don’t mind! This book did a wonderful job describing the setting, which is unsurprising, since Kaye actually lived in the Andamans for a while and even experienced a storm like the one in the book! The fact that Copper and her friends were completely cut off from the outside world produced the proper atmosphere of creepy suspense; I was reminded at times of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. I didn’t particularly like the fact that there was a lot of head-hopping in the book, from Copper to Val to Nick to various other characters. I also thought the solution of the mystery came out of nowhere. While the plot does hang together, I wasn’t terribly satisfied by the revelation of the murderer, as many other suspects could just as easily have committed the murders for the same reason. Overall, though, I enjoyed this book and am sad that I don’t have any more M.M. Kaye mysteries to look forward to!