The Samana Incident (Papua New Guinea)

by Keith Dahlberg

There’s nothing I love more than a good crime novel. I’m also a hobby linguist – I love foreign languages. This novel, by a local author (from my patch–Coeur d’Alene, Idaho) was a perfect choice.

map of papua new guineaDahlberg’s
Believe It Or Not

  • Tribal people in Papua New Guinea speak a whopping 836 different languages
  • Sadly, 12 languages have become extinct as there are no known living speakers
  • Only 18 per cent of people live in urban centers
  • The island is the world’s least explored, culturally and geographically
  • Many undiscovered species of plants and animals are STILL thought to exist in the interior

Crime and Punishment

Drug dealers–ugh. Too much meth–not enough teeth. Tribal communities in particular are vulnerable to substance abuse, due to the pain stemming from historical trauma, not that the crooks care about that. And there are some deliciously bad men in this novel, from Singapore to Burma to Thailand and Australia.

The good guys include a determined Papua New Guinea (PNG) policeman, his retired mentor, a radio host, and a married pair of American medics/missionaries. And the Canadian NGO they work for.

book cover photoThe Writing

“That’s better,” the Inspector said. “Very good; you are still following up your hunches with investigation. What does your captain think all this?”

Jason felt the heat of that boiling cauldron coming closer again. He took a deep breath. “Inspector Sir, I am embarrassed to tell you that you are the only person in the Department with whom I have discussed this. Considering all the recent influx of weapons and drugs in the Highlands, I have to assume that police inactivity means some officers are taking bribes. I didn’t want the drug dealers warned off.”

“Do I understand that you are including your own superior officer in this assumption?” The old man’s tone was sharp; his gaze steady and stony.

“Sir, I can produce no witnesses that have seen money transferred; I have no facts. I can only quote you the captain’s comment after I placed my Samana report on his desk, and before he had read it. It has echoed through my  head for days, and I can quote it verbatim. He said: ‘Kerro, don’t worry too much about those foreigners in Samana. There’s no profit in it for us’. I can’t say for sure whose side he is on.


Very good indeed! I had an awful feeling when I discovered three typos within the first three pages, but that initial impression was misleading. The book is very well-written–it has a good, strong, exciting pace and the dialog is snappy. I also appreciated the very subtle Christian aspects. The characters worked as being good-hearted without being preachy.

The End

A great summer read! Come to find out, this book is in the middle of a series featuring the American doctor and nurse couple, so I will be looking for the others. And if they end up going to different countries, I may feature them on the blog again.

Rating: Five dishes of dia!
(Sago palm starch and bananas cooked with coconut cream.)

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