A Disappearance in Fiji
By Nilima Rao
A charming debut historical mystery set in 1914 Fiji.
1914, Fiji: Akal Singh, 25, would rather be anywhere but this tropical paradise – or, as he calls it, ‘this godforsaken island’. After a promising start to his police career in Hong Kong, Akal has been sent to the farflung colony of Fiji as punishment for a humiliating professional mistake. Lonely and grumpy, Akal plods through his work and dreams of a return to Hong Kong, or even his native India.
An indentured Indian woman goes missing from a sugarcane plantation and Fiji’s newspapers scream ‘kidnapping’, just as the Indian indentured servitude program is being scrutinised for alleged abuses. Fiji’s inspector-general reluctantly assigns Akal the case, as the senior Indian police officer available. Akal, eager to achieve redemption, agrees – but soon finds himself far more invested than he could ever have expected.
When he arrives at the plantation to investigate, Akal must confront the brutal realities of the indentured workers’ existence and the racism of the British colonisers in Fiji – along with his own thorny notions of identity and class. His interrogations of the white plantation owners, Indian indentured labourers and local Fijians yield only one conclusion: there is far more to this case than meets the eye.
Nilima Rao’s sparkling debut mystery offers an unflinching look at the impact of colonialism, even as it brims with wit, vibrant characters and fascinating historical detail.
About the author:
Nilima Rao is a Fijian Indian Australian who has always referred to herself as ‘culturally confused’. She has since learned that we are all confused in some way (and has been published on the topic by Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service as part of the SBS Emerging Writers Competition, so now feels better about the whole thing). When she isn’t writing, Nilima can be found wrangling data (the dreaded day job) or wandering around Melbourne laneways in search of the next new wine bar. A Disappearance in Fiji is her first novel, and she is currently working on the second in the series.
Publisher: Allen & Unwin