A Disappearance in Fiji by Nilima Rao

Reviewed by Ian Lipke

This book is very much a tongue in cheek account by a Fijian-Indian-Australian who refers to herself as culturally confused. In fact she has one of the sharpest minds to be found in the world of fiction.

She demonstrates this in her new book A Disappearance in Fiji where readers are introduced to a young police sergeant assigned the task of solving the disappearance of a young Indian woman. Unexpectedly the sergeant would rather be anywhere than “this godforsaken island”. The reason for his attitude lies in a previous posting where he had been sent to Fiji as punishment for a humiliating professional mistake. Coping with his error would not have been so bad if his senior officer, Inspector General Johnathan Thurstrom, had let him forget it.

Upset at the attitude of his superior officer, he can dream only of getting back to Hong Kong or his native India. His only friend is a constable, Taviti. As the book opens, they are combining their efforts to catch the Night Prowler. But then Kunti goes missing and the Inspector General insists that Sergeant Akal must investigate. This involves the sergeant and the doctor travelling on horseback through pouring rain and muddy paths to the plantation of Henry and Susan Parkins.

At this property Akal becomes very much aware of the brutal realities of the indentured workers system and the racism of the British colonisers. It does not take Akal very long to realise that something is not right. Using his charm with children he learns that Kunti was associated with Mr Brown and before long the children rescue a sari from the flooded river. Further investigation reveals the body of both Kunti and Mr Brown.

Further investigations within the grounds of racism leads to a solution to the mystery.

Nilima Rao provides a story that is interesting because of its cultural background, the finely drawn characters of the policeman and the doctor, the sheer gall of the villains and the deep hate of the Inspector General. Who would have expected that a charming and impractical hero could have lain hidden among the talents of a ‘culturally confused’ author. Who would have suspected that such a fine unearthing of indentured servitude would be waiting to be found hidden in a plot of superior quality, yet Rao presents these qualities as nimbly as any professional.

Read Nilma Rao to find something both authentic and engrossing.

A Disappearance in Fiji


by Nilima Rao



$34.99; 290pp

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