Welcome to the Stellar Review which is back after an extended summer holiday! This month I am reviewing Pefume Island by Curtis Bausse, I happened to see the author’s plea for reviewers on Dan Alatorre’s blog over a year ago and since I was in the market for a holiday read I offered my services and Curtis sent me complimentary copy to keep me busy.
Perfume Island is the sequel to One Green Bottle, the first book in the Magali Rousseau detective series. Since I didn’t realise this was the case until after I’d finished the book, I can assure you that reading the first instalment is not essential to the understanding of the sequel.
Perfume island is set in Mayotte, a newly French department in the Indian Ocean with a rebellious Comoros heart. Magali Rouseau and her partner and travelling companion, Charlotte Perle, are visiting the island as part of their extended tour when their stay on the politically turmulous colony is thrown into chaos. Both Magali’s newly acquired detective credentials and her innate busybody nature are required to unravel the web of intrigue she encounters whilst navigating the sinister motives at play in what seems, at first sight, to be a cut and dry case for the Mayotte Gendarmerie.
Your first taste of what’s to come is the opening gambit. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where the end of the first chapter has actually made me sit up straight and gasp in surprise. It wouldn’t have mattered what the back cover said the story was about or whether my aunty’s-sister’s-bestfriend didn’t care for it much, there was no way I was putting this book down until I found out what had happened to cause the events in chapter one. As it turned out, this easily brushed away event was the catalyst to the main character unleashing her inner Miss Marple.
From the outset, I was drawn into the author’s description of the Mayotte backdrop, he describes, but doesn’t focus on, the idyllic setting of the island and it would have been a simple feat to hang the story on the beautiful scenery and the prosperous residents of the island, but he doesn’t. Instead, he weaves the subculture and ever-present socioeconomic unrest into the story until it becomes a character in its own right – affected by and existing because of, the island’s inhabitants. Magali, the main character, is necessarily nosey and a bit naive, I hope by design, and like all of Curtis’ characters has an interesting backstory which is continually revealed throughout the book. The last chapters still offer up twists and turns for all the players which will leave you questioning your allegiance.
I’m not usually drawn to mystery books and am not innately talented at working out whodunnit, I’m pleased to report that this ending proved just as illusive to me. I eagerly chased down several suspects with Magali before the real villain was revealed at the end. I was delighted not to have guessed correctly.
If you love to lose yourself in a good whodunnit, I would thoroughly recommend Perfume Island to you. It’s not a fast paced, seat-of-your-pants thrill ride, but that sort of adrenaline fuelled story would not be suited to the laid back Mayotte world the author so critically observes.
Over to you!
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