The Honest Folk of Guadeloupe
by Timothy Williams
Review by Verna Suit
Soho Crime Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616953850
Date: 13 January 2015 List Price $26.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
In the French colonial department of Guadeloupe, local environmentalist Rodolphe Dugain dies in a fall from a tall building, and a vacationing nurse is raped and killed on a beach. Investigative Magistrate Anne Marie Laveaud is assigned the second case, which could scare away the all-important tourists, to deter her from digging into the first, whose circumstances are highly suspicious.
The Honest Folk of Guadeloupe follows Anne Marie's investigation through many twists and turns. One of the strangest developments is the discovery that the murdered girl may have been using another woman's identity. Anne Marie finds this out through endless very personal conversations. This is apparently typical of Guadeloupe, whose population is "obsessed with the details of other people's lives," and is often interrelated or has acquaintances in common. An intriguing relationship is the long-standing one between Anne Marie and Monsieu Trousseau, her 'greffier', which is a sort of clerk.
This close look at the folk of Guadeloupe and the West Indian culture in general, with its mix of races and lingering colonial resentment of Mother France, is the most interesting part of the book. Both murders have undercurrents of political motivation and become confusing. Keeping characters straight is often a challenge.
The book's title comes from the phrase, "the gentlemen of Martinique and the honest folk of Guadeloupe", used in documents related to France's West Indian colonies. The irony of the title is that as far as the reader can see, few folk in Guadeloupe are honest. They all have hidden agendas that color their actions.