Death Lurks in the Bush
Berkley Prime Crime
224 pp, $5.99 paperback
Nov. 10, 2002 – "Death Lurks in the Bush," the third in the Kelly Ryan mystery series, is a local treat for Virgin Islanders and a nostalgic slice of Caribbean life for ex-patriate continentals as well. Kelly runs a radio station on the fictitious island of St. Chris, a thinly disguised Virgin Island, and enjoys a limin' island lifestyle with her diverse collection of yuppie and native friends. She also has the unfortunate habit of getting involved in murders, which, a la Jessica Fletcher, she solves using her local knowledge and insights into human relationships.
In Kelly's current imbroglio, St. Chris is excitedly preparing for the arrival of the Queen of Denmark and everyone's gone the opposite of native: The restaurants are serving Tuborg, Danish Maries made with aquavit, red grout, and individual pizzas garnished with herring and pickled beets.
Queen Margrethe's childhood friend on St. Chris, Miss Maude, is looking forward to hosting a dinner party in her majesty's honor, but is desolated when her practice run proves disastrous, with most of the guests becoming ill. Is it ciguatera poisoning from the fish she served? Is it bush tea accidentally made with a poisonous plant? The flu?
When Miss Maude's lifelong friend Miss Lucy dies under suspicious circumstances, she becomes the main murder suspect. Then another, seemingly related, death leads Kelly and her policeman friend Benjamin to rethink those suspicions and intensify their search for the real killer.
While the plot is interesting enough to hold the reader's attention, the real enjoyment of this novel comes from its local color and island ambience. (You'll never guess the murder weapon, which may well be unique in the genre.) Readers with an affinity for things Caribbean will enjoy the local history described in the building of a "homestead house" on the fairgrounds, the lore of the weed women and the pageantry of Transfer Day celebrations.
Author Kate Grilley is a continental who has lived in the Virgin Islands for many years. She resides in Christiansted and commutes to work on St. Thomas, where she is a mortgage broker. Her previous Kelly Ryan mysteries are "Death Rides an Ill Wind" (can you guess the main event?) and "Death Dances to a Reggae Beat," which was nominated for several prestigious mystery awards including the Agatha, the Anthony, and the Macavity.
Editor's note: Sara Barnett is librarian who formerly was on the staff at the University of the Virgin Islands on St. Thomas. She now resides in Florida.
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