Berkley Publishing, 352 pages, $27
I can’t say “Madness of Sunshine” is a mystery/crime novel, although there are a few murders and attempted murders. It seemed more a romance, and a formulaic one at that. The strength of the book is its stunning setting: the west coast of South Island, New Zealand, not far (distance is relative in a twisty, jungly environment) from Greymouth, a real town. Golden Cove is not real. It stands in for all the small and remote towns overlooking the dramatic and tumultuous sea. It is the sort of small town (i.e., every small town) in which everyone knows everyone else’s business. It’s a town in which a murder is hard to hide, but in which murders have been shelved away, until the latest disappearance of a young girl, a beautiful and beloved member of the community.
Author Nalini Singh does a great job of creating and describing the setting and portraying the small-town nature. She avoids turning her book into a tour guide — major kudos to her — but she still makes the area sound so appealing. But her writing skills are not strong enough to overcome the repetition (Josie is Anahera’s best friend, her best friend Josie, good thing Josie is her best friend) and heavy-handed casting of a netful of red herrings (every man is a suspect).
This would have joined my pile of unfinished books, if not for the compelling location and the underlying sweet story of a community bound by ancient culture and modern necessity.