A Madness of Sunshine, by Nalini Singh

>> Sunday, March 01, 2020

TITLE: A Madness of Sunshine
AUTHOR: Nalini Singh

COPYRIGHT: 2019
PAGES: 352
PUBLISHER: Berkley

SETTING: Contemporary New Zealand
TYPE: Romantic Suspense
SERIES: None

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh pivots in a new direction with her first mainstream thriller that will be sure to keep readers on their toes.

Anahera Rawiri left New Zealand at twenty-one, fleeing small-town poverty and the ghosts of her childhood with no plans to look back. But eight years later, she returns, seeking familiarity as respite from the shattered remains of her new life. And despite the changes brought on by a bump in tourism--the shiny new welcome sign at the town line and a decidedly less shiny new police presence--Golden Cove appears much as it ever was: a small settlement on the savage West Coast of the South Island, populated by all the remembered faces and set against a backdrop of lush greenery, jagged cliffs, and crashing waves.

Detective Will Gallagher knows all about ghosts; his own chased him out of a promising career in Christchurch, landing him as the sole cop in a quaint town where his most pressing concerns are petty theft and the occasional drunk. When Golden Cove resident Miri Hinewai goes out for a run and fails to return, Will finds himself heading up a missing person's search that rapidly escalates into an official investigation after this case is connected with similar ones from the past. As an outsider, Will begins to rely on Anahera's knowledge of the area and its residents to help him delve into Golden Cove's secrets, and to determine whether it shelters something far more dangerous than just an unforgiving landscape.
Right at the start of A Madness of Sunshine, Anahera Rawiri returns home to Golden Cove, a tiny town in the West Coast of New Zealand, after almost a decade abroad. Her superficially shiny life was not a happy one, and she feels the need for a refuge and the comfort of a familiar place. But before Ana is able to even start to settle in, a young woman disappears while out on a jog.

Will Gallagher is a former big-town police officer who's recently been assigned to Golden Cove. Like everyone else, he initially assumes Miri must have had an accident during her run. But the search and rescue operation soon turns into an investigation, when clues emerge that Miri's disappearance may be related to the disappearance, several years earlier, of a couple of visitors. Back then it had also been assumed that the visitors, also young women, had encountered difficulties while hiking. But as Will investigates, it becomes more and more possible that all of the disappearances may have actually been foul play.

I was really looking forward to this book, but unfortunately, it didn't work for me at all. There were a couple of element that I liked, though, so maybe I should start with those. First was the setting. It was vivid and interesting. I liked how Singh described the contrast between the oppressive claustrophobia of such a small town and the comfort of being in a community where everyone knows each other, and then how the high-end tourism developments overlay it all. I also liked the feeling that while the wild nature surrounding the town is incredibly beautiful, it's also deadly, and it's necessary to be always on your guard against it.

I also liked that there isn't a "you must forgive your abusers" message here. Ana grew up with an abusive father, and is understandably angry at him still. This anger is portrayed as valid, and when Ana refuses to simply forgive and forget, it's made clear that this is ok. This shouldn't be so revolutionary, but it is.

And I'm afraid that is it for the positives. What bothered me the most, I think, was how the latest victim was portrayed. First of all, Miri herself didn't really make sense to me as a character. She did not feel like the real, contemporary young woman she was supposed to be. She felt like a dated stereotype, especially when we got to her her voice late in the story. And even worse was how everyone seems completely obsessed by her beauty. All the men lust after her and want her, and a lot of them end up behaving horribly, and it it's portrayed almost like 'oh, they couldn't help themselves'. It was disturbing.

Actually, the portrayal of men in general was disturbing. The sheer amount of domestic abuse and general psychopathic behaviour amongst the men in the town made the book feel really heavy, and made me wonder why anyone would want to live here.

The mystery itself was quite mediocre. I found the revelations about what had happened psychologically unsatisfying, and felt they were unbelievable. It felt like cheating, rather than something that felt like an organic solution. I want an 'ahhh' moment at the end, but the reaction I had was more like 'really?'. Maybe the problem was that it was all a bit too convoluted. It was reminiscent of Jayne Ann Krentz's latest romantic suspense books.

And the romance element was just as mediocre, I'm afraid. I never connected with Anahera or Will, and I certainly didn't feel any sense of connection between them. The word that came to me when I thought about them was 'humourless', which is a bit weird, since this is certainly not a book that is supposed to be humorous. I guess what I mean is that their inner worlds are all heavy and oppressive and there is not a single bit of lightness in them. I did not want to spend any more time with them.

MY GRADE: Unfortunately, this was a C- for me.

2 comments:

Marg 4 March 2020 at 09:36  

that's such a shame. I am a long way behind on Singh's series so I thought maybe I should give this one a go.

Rosario 5 March 2020 at 06:21  

You may like it more than I did. I know a lot of people have!

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