A Disappearance in FijiNilima Rao
1914, Fiji: Akal Singh, 25, would rather be anywhere but this tropical paradise - or, as he calls it, 'this godforsaken island'. After a promising start to his police career in Hong Kong, Akal has been sent to the farflung colony of Fiji as punishment for a humiliating professional mistake. Lonely and grumpy, Akal plods through his work and dreams of a return to Hong Kong, or even his native India.
An indentured Indian woman goes missing from a sugarcane plantation and Fiji's newspapers scream 'kidnapping', just as the Indian indentured servitude program is being scrutinised for alleged abuses. Fiji's inspector-general reluctantly assigns Akal the case, as the senior Indian police officer available. Akal, eager to achieve redemption, agrees - but soon finds himself far more invested than he could ever have expected.
When he arrives at the plantation to investigate, Akal must confront the brutal realities of the indentured workers' existence and the racism of the British colonisers in Fiji - along with his own thorny notions of identity and class. His interrogations of the white plantation owners, Indian indentured labourers and local Fijians yield only one conclusion: there is far more to this case than meets the eye.
Nilima Rao's sparkling debut mystery offers an unflinching look at the impact of colonialism, even as it brims with wit, vibrant characters and fascinating historical detail.