A Disappearance in Fiji

Soho Crime. Jun. 2023. 288p. ISBN 9781641294294. $25.95. M
DEBUT Rao’s mystery relates the little-known story of Indians who were indentured in Fiji. In 1914, young Indian police sergeant Akal Singh is assigned to British colonial Fiji as punishment for misdeeds in Hong Kong. He’s assigned the case of an indentured Indian servant who disappeared from a plantation. Normally this sort of disappearance would not be scrutinized, but two events prompt the inspector-general to investigate: first, a Catholic missionary told the newspaper that Kunti, the missing woman, was kidnapped; second, the delegation for Indian Relations with Fiji is visiting, and they are interested in how the British police treat a crime against an indentured servant. Akal knows the case is either a chance to redeem himself for his actions in Hong Kong or to become a scapegoat. The British plantation owners treat Akal no better than their indentured servants. If a British doctor didn’t smooth the way, Akal might not have been able to talk with the servants, who tell him how the British sexually abused the women, including Kunti. Akal’s boss will not be pleased with his final report about Kunti’s disappearance.
VERDICT The Punjabi Sikh Akal Singh and the mystery of colonial Fiji will appeal to fans of Abir Mukherjee’s mysteries set in India.
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