A Madness of Sunshine: Nalini Singh

Published by Gollancz

“That was the town Anahera remembered, the town that had suffocated her, the town where there were no secrets—and far too many hidden things.”

Anahera is from Golden Cove, a small town in New Zealand’s South Island. She left for the UK, became a well-known classical pianist and married a successful English playwright. After her husband dies suddenly, leaving behind not only a widow but also a pregnant mistress, Anahera decides to leave her new life behind and return to Golden Cove.

But the town is full of memories and ghosts that Anahera had fled from eight years ago. Anahera’s mother, whom she adored, managed to escape a violent marriage but died in an accident. It is her cabin that Anahera goes back to.

The people Anahera grew up with now are still there: her best friend Josie, who runs a café; Nikau, who cannot come to terms with the fact that his wife Keira left him for Daniel, a rich man; and Vincent, a successful businessman who has a perfect family.  

Then one day, Miriama, a beautiful young woman who works in Josie’s café, goes for a run and doesn’t come home. A search party combs the area but there is no trace of her.  

What happened to her? Could there be a connection between her disappearance and the three women hikers who vanished 15 years ago? If there is, then that can mean only one thing: that one of the residents of Golden Cove is responsible for all four disappearances.

Nalini Singh captures the feeling of a small town: the deep connections between people and the secrets that they all share but will not talk about. Singh creates a strong sense of place: Golden Cove has stunningly beautiful vistas but nature is not benevolent. The sea is treacherous, and the coast is lined with craggy and dangerous rocks. Those who stray off the hiking paths near the town can be lost for days, and are sometimes never found.

The characters are nuanced and beautifully drawn, and you care about them. The two women at the centre of the story are Anahera, strong-willed, angry and smart; and Miriama, an intelligent woman with big dreams for the future. Will, the only policeman in Golden Cove, is a decorated officer who was sent there after he almost beat a suspect to death. He and Anahera join forces to find the killer.

Who is responsible for Mirima’s disappearance—and maybe that of the three hikers? Anahera grew up with most of the suspects and thinks she knows them well. Has one of them has turned into a killer?

This is a dark book where what passes for love is often a need to possess. It is completely engrossing. I finished it in the early hours of the morning, unable to put it down. This is an accomplished work, especially as it is Singh’s first whodunit.

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