IN this second instalment on Inspector Singh’s celebrated new mystery series, we find him travelling to Bali to bust a crime. When a portion of a corpse’s head is discovered among the dead with a bullet hole in it, Singh is sent to investigate into the murder buried beneath the mass murder. In this layered plot with one crime concealing another and the next concealing another still, Singh is deported to Bali to provide assistance (along with a number of Australian policemen, who have a more obvious reason to be there). When he tells his superiors, “But I have no experience in the field,” he is told, “Nonsense! A terrorist attack is just murder on a grand scale. And murder is your speciality.”
With the assistance of an Australian female cop who is similarly not involved in the main investigation of the crime, Singh manoeuvres among a group of émigré Anglos and a small Indonesian Muslim group whose stories Flint tells as an omniscient narrator while showing them through Singh’s eyes. This is the first half of the story. Gradually the mystery clears which slows down the pace of the novel but all of a sudden, the novel picks up momentum to end on a surprising note.
Some of the characters, cops, émigrés and terrorists seem curiously naïve and there remains some element of the romance as in the earlier books in the series, but on the whole the narrative is effective in dealing with a terror incident at arm’s length.
(Hachette, Little Brown Group, 100 Victoria Embankment, London EC 4Y 0DY.)