Thursday, April 16, 2015

Devil-Devil by Graeme Kent

Devil-Devil is the first book in the Sister Conchita/Sergeant Kella mystery series by Graeme Kent. The books are set in the South Pacific in the Solomon Islands (the most famous of which is Guadalcanal). It’s the early 1960s, and World War II is a recent event that still affects the islands and the islanders.

My father was a Marine who fought in the Solomon Islands during World War II. He always wanted to go back for a visit, although he never did. I don’t know much about the Solomon Islands but love reading mysteries, so this series intrigued me.

Ben Kella is a sergeant in the Solomon Island Police Force. He is also the “aofia,” or spiritual peacekeeper, of the Lau people. This dual role causes much conflict with the locals and the colonial authorities. Sister Conchita is a young American nun who expected to be sent to South America (hence her choosing of Conchita as her new name) but instead finds herself at a Roman Catholic mission station in the Solomons. She is assertive and outspoken and often has to remind herself to take confession when she insists on having the last word.

The two meet in the course of an investigation and form a mutual appreciation and loose friendship. I expect that friendship grows in later books in the series. Both are interesting characters with a lot of room for development.

Graeme Kent ran an educational broadcasting service in the Solomon Islands for eight years, so I assume he is writing from his firsthand knowledge of life there. The different cultures, languages, and traditions mentioned in the book were a bit confusing but still fascinating. The mystery is not as important as the representation of the islands and the islanders. Kent shows great respect for both. I recommend Devil-Devil to readers who enjoy learning about other countries and cultures as part of the plot.

The Galesburg Public Library owns the three books that have been published in the series so far. They can be found in adult fiction under the author's last name, KENT.

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