-Post by Molly
If you’ve been keeping an eye on the MysteryPeople blog, than you might have heard mention of the Northern Irish author Adrian McKinty in regards to his outstanding Troubles Trilogy, finished up earlier this year with the concluding volume, In The Morning I’ll Be Gone. McKinty has written fourteen previous novels, and now he has another book out. This one’s set far from Northern Ireland in the 1980s.
McKinty’s latest, The Sun is God, is set in the corners of European empires in the dawn of the twentieth century. This is a story about the limits and consequences of empire, and bears some small resemblance to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The novel begins in South Africa at the tail end of the Boer War, then moves quickly over to New Guinea, and then to a remote island off of an already remote shore. On this island lives a colony of sun-worshiping German nudists, subsisting on a diet of coconuts and liquor infused with Bayer Chemical’s new “non-addictive” heroin, and convinced their special diet will grant them immortality. When more of the colonists die off than even their atrocious diet would seem to indicate, the only man around with police experience is summoned to the task of first, detecting foul play, and second, solving any crimes he may stumble upon.
McKinty’s protagonist, former military police officer Will Prior, is haunted by his memories of wartime atrocities but otherwise living well on a plantation in a German colonial enclave. The German colonial administration has different plans for Will than just a quiet retirement, however; he must instead go to the island of the sun-worshipers and search for wrong-doing. Unfortunately for Will, nightmares, opium, and beautiful naked noblewomen keep getting in his way.
McKinty, while writing in less personally familiar territory than his previous novels, has clearly done his research, and the novel is full of interesting tidbits about colonial and indigenous cultures in the early twentieth century. Even the cult of the cocovores (so named for their dietary obsession) did in fact exist, although given the conditions, it did not last particularly long. As historical fiction about cults, The Sun is God tackles a subject generally reserved for true crime books. The plot is as driving as any of McKinty’s novels, and the author’s research is seamlessly incorporated into the narrative and only adds to the mounting strangeness and horror as Will gradually discovers how crazy the cult members are. The Sun Is God, at its conclusion, sets the scene for a century of confusion and horror, and continues the themes of colonial disintegration set up by McKinty’s previous novels. I can’t wait to see what he writes about next.
Copies of The Sun is God can be found on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.