A Madness of Sunshine is well-known paranormal romance and urban fantasy author Nalini Singh's first foray into writing murder mystery, but it will come as no surprise to anyone who's read her other work that Nalini takes to the challenge with consummate skill. The tiny town of Golden Cove, on the rugged coat of the South Island of New Zealand, is vividly brought to life, both in the unforgiving beauty of the landscape and the harsh, strong people inhabiting it.
Too often in murder mysteries, the first time the reader encounters the victim is when a body is discovered by the story protagonist, but it's not the case here. We get to know the victim just well enough to be rooting for her, to grieve her loss, and through the investigation into her life which ensues we never get to lose sight of the fact that she was a person, someone with hopes and dreams cruelly snuffed out before her time.
The protagonists of the story are Anahera, recently returned after a decade away, and Will, a former big city detective shuffled into obscurity as the only cop in a one-horse town. Both of them have recently had their lives upended by tragedy not of their own making, and neither are quite in the right headspace for a romance, but they're drawn together nevertheless, and I believed in the relationship all the more because there were no pretty illusions held by either party. Will needs Anahera's insights, the answers the locals will give one of their own which they won't give him, and he doesn't lie to her about that, which she respects. Together, the pair of them edge closer to the truth with every rock they upturn… a truth neither of them ever expected, and one which might claim more victims before it’s all over.
This is quite sheerly a brilliant work of fiction. Nalini Singh’s skills as a narrative storyteller are superlative; I could almost hear the crashing ocean waves, smell the New Zealand bushland in the driving rain, hear the native birds singing. She brings the small town with its insularity and small-mindedness vividly to life, every resident with their own story to tell, their own path taken. Anahera is the perfect lens through which to view the story as it unfolds, the insider with the perspective ten years away has given her, close enough to know all the buried secrets, distant enough to see things clearly. It’s a fantastic story which will open up the mysterious, rugged south coast of New Zealand for you, and I seriously hope it gets made into a movie or TV series because I can only imagine how beautiful it would look on screen. Five stars for a fantastic, thrilling mystery.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.