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Review: A Pyre of Roses by Roland P. Joseph

★★★★ A Pyre of Roses

Michael Attzs is a man with no past. He has but a flash of memory of a man leaving him in an orphanage in a Trinidadian village under the iron rule of Catholicism and colonialism, but this is all he has of his childhood. When his wife and child are brutally killed, a mysterious stranger wants to finger him for their deaths. Even police procedural documents show different events, while secrets and lies hide the truth – but why? Things get really strange when he marries a woman that seems to have just as little past as he does, and it seems like nobody can be honest with him.

This engrossing murder mystery from Roland Joseph is cleverly built to deceive and hypnotize the most canny reader-detectives, with his orchestration of the web of events, some true, some not so true, and some downright fallacious in a corrupt police force. As Michael is driven along to discover the truth about his past, he will also uncover the truth about those around him, using the scant images of the day he was abandoned as a child, and the confession of a dying priest…

Set in Trinidad and Tobago, Joseph brings Trinidadian culture alive, showing the intricate layers of societal interaction and culture that only someone who is native to a place can recount. It’s a colorful mix of accents, colloquialisms and village life that at times is amusing as well as entertaining. Writing is roomy and breezes along, and interestingly uses a device of a novella written inside the book to tell the reader something more of the mystery.

The book is full of accusations and trauma, sometimes a little relentlessly, but the impression left on the reader is that the corruption and the way that crimes are dealt with in Trinidad and Tobago for Michael is far from just and fair, and that this hysterical tone is likely to be exactly how it can feel on an island where nobody is telling the truth, and where violence and law-bending is far more rife than many mainland countries would tolerate, despite the absolute beauty of the setting, and the warmhearted nature of the people who live there: the sense of community shines through.

It’s clear Joseph has a passion for his genre, and a love of writing that shows in his craft. The book itself could benefit from a new cover that reflects the contents more precisely, as readers of this genre of murder-mystery will expect something darker and criminal if they are to consider a purchase. However, the book interior and editing is well done, and once the reader has started the book, it will be hard to stop thinking about who Michael is until the very end – be warned, Joseph has all his outcomes sealed tight until he decides to reveal them so good luck making any guesses! A great read for mystery lovers everywhere.

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A Pyre of Roses


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