Award-winning author Siciarz (Left at the Mango Tree, 2013) returns to the fictional island of Oh for a fresh mystery in this witty companion to her debut novel.
When the tropical island of Oh gets quiet, that can’t be good. Oh’s lone newspaperman, Bruce, has no news to report besides the occasional rainbow, until an anonymous personal ad is placed in the newspaper, sending the citizens—including Trevor the baker, Branson the teacher—into a frenzy of speculation. Raoul, the mystery-loving customs agent, wants no part in Oh’s gossip, but when a mysterious message appears on the side of his house, he has no choice but to become involved. A mangled bicycle and a missing woman add to the drama, and the bumbling police officers Arnold and Joshua begin to concoct a case that Oh’s newspaper laps up. When fisherman Madison Fuller is accused of murdering the missing woman, his sister, May Fuller, scrambles to clear his name. High jinks and gossip abound as everyone adds to the story of the crime, and more messages painted on Raoul’s home urge him to investigate what others on Oh are not. He’s led to Mrs. Jaymes, house help to the late Capt. Dagmore. Dagmore’s origin story becomes a novella within a novella, and several chapters pass with Raoul trying to pull pertinent information from Mrs. Jaymes’ memory. If Raoul is frustrated by Mrs. Jaymes’ long tangents, readers will also be irked as the story rambles along, piling more characters from Dagmore’s life on top of the mystery at hand. Yet as Oh prepares for its first courtroom trial, Raoul learns what he needs to know, and with a flourish, he’s able to provide the final piece of the puzzle. The flavor and wit that decorated Oh the first time around are still present in this sequel, with snappy dialogue, well-timed plot twists and Siciarz’s lyrical sentences. Dagmore’s meandering origin story sometimes deters from the immediacy of the mystery, and his multiple names (e.g., Quick, Bowles) can be a bit confusing. The novel’s big reveal isn’t a huge departure from Left At The Mango Tree, as family secrets and heritage again hold the keys to Raoul’s burning questions. Nevertheless, it’s an island tale as charming and whimsical as Siciarz’s first.
Beautiful language, delightful storytelling and a fully imagined world make this return trip to Oh worth the ride.