There’s a lot to like about Graeme Kent’s upcoming novel, One Blood, and I did enjoy it right up to the book’s final section. Unfortunately (and, admittedly, this might not bother other readers nearly the way it bothers me), that is the point at which the novel commits one of the cardinal sins of mystery writing on my personal list of such sins: a dry discussion between characters that recaps everything that has happened offstage while I was reading the rest of the book. The information revealed is key to a full understanding of the action previously witnessed, especially as to what has motivated all the criminal activity, but learning of it in this fashion is always a downer for me as a reader, and makes me wish the author had written a longer book in the style of the 95% of it I had already enjoyed. In other words: Show me; don’t tell me.
But, as I want to emphasize, there’s still a whole lot going for One Blood.
It is the second book in Kent’s Sgt. Ben Kella/ Sister Conchita series involving two of the more interesting new detectives I have encountered in a long time. Ben Kella, in addition to being an aofia (a highly respected hereditary title that places him in the role of “spiritual peacekeeper” of the Lau people), is a key member of the island police department. It would seem that his two roles would clash, but Kella is quite adept at using one role to compliment the other as circumstances around him change. Sister Conchita is a young nun who has been sent to the Western District of the Solomon Islands to rejuvenate a church mission that is slowly wasting away because the resident nuns have become so withdrawn and insular.
One of the book’s most appealing aspects is its physical setting in the beautiful Solomon Islands, an area that is likely still to be relatively unfamiliar to most people. Even more intriguing, these are the Solomon Islands of 1960, a period during which World War II junk still litters the jungles and beaches of that part of the world. As Sgt. Kella and Sister Conchita make their way, separately and together, from island to island, reminders of the fighting are still everywhere.
The book’s core mystery is an intriguing one that will appeal to history buffs as well as to mystery fans because of its connections to American political icon, John F. Kennedy. Kennedy, after his famous PT-109 boat was rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer in 1943, spent several days hiding out on two islands in the Solomon chain. More than sixteen years later, strange American “tourists” are asking questions about the rescue of Kennedy and his crew, and they want to visit the islands that sheltered the men from Japanese capture. When one of the Americans is killed at the mission during its open house day, things begin to get ugly and Sister Conchita, feeling somewhat responsible for the man’s death, refuses to rest until she finds out what is really happening on her island.
One Blood will not be published until early 2012, so there is still time to check out the first book featuring Kella and Sister Conchita, 2011’s Devil-Devil. The pairing `combines individual talents and backgrounds to form a unique and effective crime-fighting team – one that is a lot of fun to watch.
Rated at: 3.5
(Review Copy provided by Publisher)