MURDER IN MONTEGO BAY
by Paula Lennon
In Montego Bay, Jamaica, privileged Chinese-Jamaican brothers Lester and Carter Chin Ellis have enjoyed a sheltered life as the heirs to the iced desserts empire Chinchillerz. One fateful night, following a fiery encounter with local law enforcement the brothers are taken to Pelican Walk Police Station, where Lester is detained for drunk driving, while Carter is released without charge. When Carter is shot dead within minutes of leaving the station his murder throws the police force into crisis mode. Discredited Detective Raythan Preddy is put in charge of the murder case and is forced to accept the assistance of Detective Sean Harris, a Scottish lawman seconded to Jamaica. With his superiors watching his every move and the Chin Ellis family interfering with the investigation, Preddy is determined to catch the killer and save his career.
Carter Chin Ellis is shot dead at the electronic gates outside his home. He’d just been released from custody after being arrested with his brother Lester. Heir to the Jamaican 'Chincillerz' empire, the wealthy Chinese-Jamaican brothers were taken in after being pulled over in their car after leaving a nightclub; the drunk-at-the-wheel Lester still in custody when his brother was let go sustained an injury after being in the cell overnight.
The brothers were close, both overindulged and privileged, thanks to their family business. Red Hills, the wealthy area in which Carter is killed, is a place where the locals demand results. Unlike the other side of town, here you are expected to catch the criminals, and there’s pressure from many sources for the police to do so. The man charged with solving this murder is Detective Raythan Preddy. Preddy is a likable lead. He has two children and a tricky romance and, like many sleuths, he has a vice, though his love of a cup of ganga tea is not one I’d come across before. His position is under threat, not for his choice of brew but over a past case. It seems that some suspicion has fallen on Preddy, another reason for him to crack this case. Working with him are two female cops and a new addition to the team at the Pelican Walk police station, a Glaswegian called Sean Harris. It’s not quite clear why he’s really there but we find out as the story goes along.
Montego Bay may not be the usual setting for a crime novel and yet all the ingredients are there. The city of Montego Bay is made up of two extremes: the tourist side on the Caribbean Sea with all the money and resources and, on the other side of town, a place crime-ridden and in relative poverty. Between the two, a kind of middle ground, where care needs to be taken. There is authenticity abound (the author lives in Jamaica) and I liked the political insight and commentry on issues such as migration and cannabis.
The dialogue does portray the authentic Jamaican tongue, which may cause readers to slow down and interpret the text, but this soon becomes natural and is quite easy if you hear the accent in your head at the time of reading. For example, them becomes dem, they is dey, and ‘go on’ as gwaan. The Glasgow accent also makes an appearance but it’s not a dialogue heavy book.
The story unravels over the series of discoveries and suspects, making this a police procedural. The setting is different but there's a familiar old-school plot. The resolution is guessable if you work to follow the clues in this enjoyable and impressive debut.
About Paula Lennon:
Paula Lennon is the sixth and last child in a family of boys, born to Jamaican parents in the West Midlands, England. Paula lived in Jamaica during her teens and attended Clarendon College high school in Chapelton. For many years Paula worked as a commercial lawyer in London, England, before deciding to live where the weather was more conducive to smiling. She currently resides in Jamaica, where she is always actively plotting, writing, and being distracted by the Caribbean Sea.