Another Sun Synopsis
The sun-drenched Caribbean island of Guadeloupe is technically part of France, subject to French law and loyal to the French Republic. But in 1980, the scars of colonialism are still fresh, and ethnic tensions and political unrest seethe just below the surface of everyday life.
French-Algerian judge Anne Marie Laveaud relocated to this beautiful Caribbean island confident that she could make it her new home. But her day-to-day life is rife with frustration. Now she is assigned a murder case in which she is sure the chief suspect, an elderly ex-con named Hégésippe Bray, is a political scapegoat. Her superiors are dismissive of her efforts to prove Bray innocent, and to add insult to injury, Bray himself won’t even speak to her because she’s a woman. But she won’t give up, and Anne Marie’s investigations lead her into a complex tangle of injustice, domestic terrorists, broken hearts, and maybe even voodoo. (Amazon)
Another Sun is actually an English translation (by the author himself) of the novel Un Autre Soleil, originally published in French in 2011. It comes after a long hiatus for Timothy Williams who had commercial success with the Commissario Trotti Italian mystery series in the 1980s and 1990s.
This atmospheric crime thriller is set in 1980 on the island of Guadeloupe. The laid back picture postcard Caribbean setting on display for tourists belies the corruption present and simmering racial tensions stemming from the French territory’s colonial origins.
Into this melting pot Williams places his leading lady, French-Algerian judge Anne Marie Laveaud.
The procureur nodded; his thoughts were elsewhere. “I can entrust the enquiry to Juge Laveaud.”
The floodlights caught his smile and revealed large, stained teeth. “Let’s see what she can make of it.”
“She’s an intelligent woman.”
“No doubt. Intelligent and ambitious.”
Anne Marie is a feisty, strong-willed and principled 34 year old, in a position of power in a male dominated arena. She finds herself fighting injustice on two fronts – that which is in plain sight and that woven into the fabric of Guadeloupe society.
She could feel herself getting angry. “For you it’s easy. Like pissing, isn’t it? You can stop at the first tree you come to. But as a woman, I’ve got to think of the long-term logistics.”
Along with a very likeable protagonist, Williams presents readers with a complex, multi-layered mystery to sink their teeth into. But for me the ingenious plot was let down by some weaknesses in its delivery.
While I have not read the original novel Un Autre Soleil, I suspect the key flaws of Another Sun stem from its translation from French to English. A clunky word choice, repeated phrases and too literal a translation here and there disrupted the reading flow. While expanding my English vocabulary is much-loved side benefit of reading, I found myself consulting the dictionary more often than usual. Here’s an example of what I am referring to,
“This would indicate, would it not, a recrudescence in violence?”
While the use of ‘recrudescence’ is technically correct here, I have never heard anyone use it in common speech.
But, for the often poor choice in words, there were also instances where Williams captured the essence and spirit of Guadeloupe and its people beautifully. His story telling style is notably subtle, often requiring his audience to come to conclusions about crucial plot markers of their own accord. While this style took some getting used to I developed an appreciation for it.
In Another Sun author Timothy Williams shines a stark light on his adopted home of Guadeloupe and displays his talents for mystery plotting. He also shows us, although one presumes unintentionally, the real value of an experienced translator.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 3 / 5
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Genre: Crime-Thriller, Drama, Mystery, Translation
Author Information: Timothy Williams was born in Walthamstow, England in 1946. He went to Chigwell School, Essex and the Universities of St. Andrews and Manchester. Williams has had five English novels published prior to this recent English translation of Another Sun – Converging Parallels (1982), The Puppeteer (1985), Persona Non Grata (1987), Black August (1992) and Big Italy (1996). He won a Crime Writer’s Association Award for Black August. He now holds dual British/French citizenship, currently lives on the island of Guadeloupe and teaches in the main lycée of Pointe à Pitre.
– The Observer included Timothy Williams in their 10 Best Modern European Crime Writers
* Receiving this title free from Soho Press did not impact my ability to express my honest opinions in the review above.