RogerBW's Blog

To Kill a Coconut, Patricia Moyes 17 May 2023

1977 mystery, thirteenth in the series about Superintendent Henry Tibbett. On an island near Tampica, but still under British rule, the murder of a US senator has raised racial tensions. Everyone thinks they know who did it, but the evidence isn't of the best. So Tibbett is brought in to make it look good, but inconveniently insists on actually investigating… US vt The Coconut Killings.

It's another 1970s book dealing with these non-white folks who seem to be demanding to be taken seriously all of a sudden; but as before with Moyes, while there are certainly archaically racist attitudes on display, they're being held up for ridicule as they try to persist in the face of reality. There are good and bad on both the white establishment and the black revolutionary sides, and more people who don't cleanly fit into either.

I've generally preferred the Tibbett books in which he's in London, but this pseudo-Caribbean setting works for me – perhaps because I don't know much about the actual Caribbean. It's also interesting to see Tibbett acting with only limited local support, and juggling the people he needs to keep sweet, while also considering both the obvious and the less-obvious political implications – rather outside the usual confines of cosy mystery.

I've said it before and I say it again: Moyes is a forgotten gem of English detective writing.

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Previous in series: Black Widower | Series: Henry Tibbett | Next in series: Who is Simon Warwick?

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