Deadly Deceit is the second book in Jean Harrod's Diplomatic Crime Series, but don't let that put you off - it's still a cracking read as a stand-alone novel, although the numerous references to past events have made me want to go back and read the first one to find out what I've missed.
When British diplomat Jess Turner arrives in the Turks and Caicos Islands of the Caribbean on a temporary assignment, she soon discovers that there is a darker side lurking beneath the paradisiacal beaches and lagoon that the tourists see. The opening scenes of migrants drowning on the nearby reefs and, even more horrifying, one mum having her baby ripped from her arms when she makes it to the shoreline, have already hinted that the locals may not be as friendly as they would appear to outsiders, but when the island's officials start meeting tragic and suspicious ends, Jess starts to fear for her own life. The inner circle of the Governor's friends and colleagues, who she needs to liaise with in her official capacity as his replacement, appear to be an eccentric and possibly untrustworthy bunch. On top of that, there are disquieting rumblings about voodoo practices in the camp of the illegal immigrants from Haiti and, if that wasn't enough to be dealing with, even the natural elements conspire against Jess, sending a potentially deadly tropical storm her way. With her partner back in England going AWOL so she hasn't even got a shoulder to cry on on the phone, it's just as well a friendly face from the past (and the previous tome) puts in an appearance in the form of Aussie cop and all-round good guy, DI Tom Sangster. The two have an obvious attraction for each other but it's left smouldering on the backburner, presumably waiting to be developed in a future novel.
I loved the exotic location of the Caribbean and its picture postcard views of perfection, contrasting with the less desirable parts of island life that the tourists don't usually encounter, such as the migrants, voodoo and tropical storms. Jean Harrod's personal experience as a diplomat adds realism to the plot, even if some of the characters did seem a bit too good (or bad) to be true, as totally ruthless villains or angelic heroes, whereas I like my literary heroes and antiheroes to be a more convincing mixture of both. Sangster in particular appears to be one of those Hollywoodian heroes who can be shot at fifty times and fall down a cliff without receiving as much as a scratch ! The plot is fast paced and the constant mood of tension and menace had me gripped, so I couldn't wait to race through to the end and find out how it would all unravel.
star rating : 4.5/5
RRP : £7.99
Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book in order to share my honest and objective opinion.