Rumored to hold more spirits than people, the remote tropical paradise To’aga frightens many Samoan locals - but not Detective Apelu Soifua. Reeling from the loss of his young daughter, Apelu retreats to the haunted island for a self-imposed exile. He spends his days drinking, trying to ignore the ghosts in his head, and receives few visitors other than a shamanistic recluse and a pair of dedicated marine biologists conducting research.
But after a crew of surveyors arrives, Apelu makes a disturbing discovery: Foreign investors plan to build a resort hotel on the coast, a project sure to destroy the To’aga coral reef and shatter the island’s peaceful way of life. When tensions rise and someone - or something - commits a gruesome murder, Apelu must force himself out of retirement to solve the case. Can the heartbroken detective navigate both modern and mystical forces to find the killer and appease the angry spirits of To’aga, in this third book of the Jungle Beat Mystery series?
I've seen reviews that state this one can be read as a stand-alone, which is probably true, but I'd still read the others first. Phil Gigante is a great fit as narrator for the series.
As for the story here, frankly I found the first third or so rather boring, with Apelu moping around on a remote island alone, grieving for his young daughter who'd died on cancer; he blames himself for not having insisted she be treated earlier. The wife and kids are in Western Samoa with her family, except for the older boy, Senele, who comes to live with Apelu later in the story. Anyway ... once one of the pahlonghi (white American) associated with the construction crew is murdered, the action picks up, or at least we have something to go on from there. The ending is quite rushed, almost tacked on, so I didn't really get why the victims were killed specifically?
The book filled time, but if I had to describe it in a single word: grim. Between Apelu's morbid moping, and the nasty characters, it was tough to actually like reading this one. I will give Enright credit for the way he so thoroughly coveys a sense of place and culture. On to the next installment, which just came out ... though probably not right away.