October 13, 2011

The Goat Woman of Largo Bay

Gillian Royes, a Jamaican-born educator, editor and consultant, has made a wonderful foray into the world of fiction and mystery with The Goat Woman of Largo Bay, the first in a series featuring Shadrack Myers. Although Shad has almost no formal education, he's an intelligent and observant man, known as the smart-man in the small town of Largo Bay, Jamaica.

Shad bartends for Eric Keller, an American who has never been quite the same since his hotel, located on a small island off Largo Bay, was destroyed in a hurricane. One day, while he's working at Eric's bar, Shad notices something moving among the hotel ruins. At first he thinks it's a goat, but binoculars reveal that it's a woman.

Why is a woman alone on the island? How did she get there? What is she up to? Curious, Shad and Eric set out to confront her. The fiercely independent Simone piques their interest. She offers to pay rent, so Eric lets her stay.

Shad's slightly shady past comes back to confront him, however, when some criminals he knows start asking questions about the woman. He's kept busy trying to figure out what Sharpie and Tiger are up to, while simultaneously delving into Simone's secrets and keeping his wife and four kids out of the situation.

Told mostly from Shad's point of view in Jamaican patois, The Goat Woman of Largo Bay will transport you to another world--a beautiful, tropical world with a rather seedy underbelly.

I found this book fascinating, perhaps because it was set in Jamaica, in a culture with which I'm not very familiar. And, although I would classify it as a mystery, it's not a very mysterious mystery -- more of a quiet, thoughtful look at crime, human nature, love, and loss in a small town. It reminded me a bit of some of Alexander McCall Smith's books. Shadrack Myers is also one of the most likeable characters I've come across in a long time, so I heartily recommend this book--even if you're not normally a mystery reader.

Rating: 4.3 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Maybe. If she doesn't mind her books on the steamy side.

Have you ever been to Jamaica? Or can you recommend any other books set there?

Just so you know, this review originally appeared, in slightly shorter form, in Shelf Awareness, and the book image and title are Amazon affiliate links.