I had a little problem with the island of Anagada, the “Drowned Land” where this delightful cozy mystery takes place. I got it through a special order from Auntie’s Bookstore, because Professor Google told me it was set in the British Virgin Islands, also known as BVI. But the phrase “Land of Love and Drowning” kept drifting through my mind. Uh,oh. I went back over the blog and discovered that my blog on the American Virgin Islands ALSO took place in Anagada…
Land of Love and Drowning’s MC’s mother was born on Anagada, but a lot of the action takes place on St. Thomas, which is definitely in the AVI. In that book, Anagada is mysterious, desolate, magical and wild. In Sun, Sand, and Murder, it is very modern–kind of like the island in Death in Paradise. Although both Main Characters are descended from slaves, Sun, Sand, and Murder‘s Special Constable Teddy Creque is not haunted by history. He suffers no historical trauma.
Which is a good thing, because he’s got enough problems. His marriage is falling apart–he’s cheating on his wife with this hot helicopter pilot– and he’s in trouble with his boss. There hasn’t been a murder on Anagada for 20 years, until De White Rasta stumbles over one on the beach at Spanish Camp. While trying to protect the body from being eaten completely by land crabs and seagulls, Teddy disturbs the crime scene and almost gets fired. Oh, and he pukes 3 times. I don’t blame him. I’m also off seafood for awhile.
De White Rasta is one of my favorite characters in this book, or possibly ever. He speaks with a fake Jamaican accent, and is always stoned but happy. His real name is Lord Anthony Wedderburn, and he escaped from England as a young man and didn’t even go back for his father’s funeral. He has hidden depths, which we run into later.
The lady who runs the bar at Cow Wreck Beach is also cool. Belle makes conch fritters and cooks six-pound lobsters with panache. She also lets De White Rasta crash on an Army cot behind her place (he is homeless) as long as he clears out before the customers arrive.
Wendell the grumpy treasure hunter and his silent mistress Marie are interesting. There are always treasure hunters on Anagada, thanks to Pirate Bone and Pirate Something Else during the 1600s. Wendell finds cannon balls and buttons and other historical detritus. but he has yet to find The Big One. He also points out that there is no such thing as a treasure map.
Teddy is flawed and troubled, but very likable. He has to work 3 jobs in order to keep food on the table for his 2 kids. His wife Icilda works long hours as a waitress and they barely see each other. Teddy is the island’s customs officer, a Special Constable (one step lower on the ladder than a uniformed policeman) and he works at the power plant. The belongers on the island have the usual tourist destination’s attitude toward tourists: we like your money, but sometimes you irritate us. Being from a tourist town myself, I get it. (One Winter Carnival when my brother was especially annoyed, he coined the term “touron”–a combination of tourist and moron.) Anyway, when one of the generators at the power plant dies, Teddy has to decide which side of the island loses power so they don’t blow the whole thing. He has to decide between The Settlement, where the belongers live, or the other side with the tourist hotels. It is no contest. The belongers always lose, because everyone on the island knows the value of tourism.
This was a fun, easy to read romp through Anagadan history (pirates, treasure, Arawak and Carib Indians, and a mid-20th century scammer called Nigel Brooks, who stole millions from the government). The modern stuff was fun too. Fishing for bonefish, mudding, lobsters and crabs and shrimp, oh my! I definitely wanted to visit. I also wanted to rescue the dozens of skeletal cows who wander the island and block the roads. Poor underfed dears.
RATING: Five buckets of conch shells!