Beach, Breeze, Bloodshed by John Keyse-Walker is the second book in the Teddy Creque Mysteries series.
As summer draws to a close here in the northern hemisphere, let those of us who thrive in warmer temperatures bask in the release of John Keyse-Walker’s second Teddy Creque Mystery. Set in the British Virgin Islands, the books take full advantage of the locale, reminding those of us not blessed to live in such beautiful environs what we’re missing out on:
It was only then that I noticed it was another glorious Virgin Islands afternoon, cottony clouds on the horizon, the diamond glint of sunshine spread on the cerulean waters of the Yacht Harbour, the musical ring of rigging against the spars. Police work has the unfortunate effect of making one ignore beauty, so intent is the search for the ugliness in life. I find it the most disappointing aspect of the job, apart from people shooting at you.
Constable Teddy Creque’s wry humor accompanies us as he rededicates himself to the vocation of police officer after the disastrous events of the first book, the award-winning Sun, Sand, Murder. As the only law enforcement officer on the peaceful, tiny island of Anegada, he got away with succumbing to the spiral of shame and self-destructive drinking that overcame him after closing the case that earned him a Queen’s Police Medal for distinguished service to home and country but also shattered his home life and sense of self.
His best friend, Anthony Wedderburn (aka De White Rasta, an English lord gone entirely native in the BVI, though now rehabilitated from an unfortunate ganja habit), finally coaxed him out of the funk that saw him handing in his letter of resignation to his superiors. In the interest of the public good, his superiors pretended it had never been received. Several months of detox later, Teddy is back on the force and ready to catch another killer.
There is one major difference this time: the killer, in this case, is not human. Witnesses on the neighboring island of Virgin Gorda have spotted a bull shark savaging a woman’s body, and experienced fisher Teddy has been sent out to capture the man-eater. When the shark is caught and the rest of the body retrieved, Teddy suspects that one of the dead woman’s wounds seems inconsistent with a shark attack. Detailed to Virgin Gorda to help the local constabulary (of two) canvass the island in order to identify the victim, Teddy soon comes to believe that the young woman was deliberately turned into shark bait.
But even as he returns to the business of investigating death, he begins to hope in life and love again in the person of the comely mother of a possible witness. Another friendly local (or belonger, as they’re called) urges him to enjoy his life and his status before the world turns and his heroism becomes relegated to history:
I thought about what he had said as I waited. I never felt like a hero, though many had treated me as one, a treatment I believed unwarranted. After all, I had failed. Failed at marriage. Failed to find a murderer until the murderer found me. Failed to stop a thief. Almost failed to keep on living. And yet I was called a hero precisely because of all those failures. Maybe [he] was right. Deserved or not, it could all be gone in the wink of an eye, as it was for him. Maybe I should just go on, stop thinking about what had happened, and enjoy life.
The greatest strength of Beach, Breeze, Bloodshed, I felt, was in its deeply rooted sense of place and people. Reading the novel was like escaping to a world where murder is truly a shocking intrusion in a slow-paced idyll. Getting to know Teddy and his friends, colleagues, and loved ones was as wonderful as an island vacation; the violence stands out in a stark contrast that serves to underline—and remind us murder mystery aficionados— how unnatural a thing murder really is. It also serves to remind us that life and glory can be fleeting and that it’s incumbent upon us all to make the most of our opportunities for happiness. In Teddy Creque, Mr. Keyse-Walker has created a character who is easy to care for, and I’m eager to see how his life and career develop in future novels.
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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.
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