As with all things written by Nalini Singh, I really enjoyed A Madness of Sunshine and I do highly recommend it for those who are usual readers of crime/murder mystery novels or those who want to start with the genre. However, before I begin my review, here is the synopsis from Goodreads:
That is until one fateful summer—and several vanished bodies—shatters the trust holding Golden Cove together. All that’s left are whispers behind closed doors, broken friendships, and a silent agreement not to look back. But they can’t run from the past forever.
Eight years later, a beautiful young woman disappears without a trace, and the residents of Golden Cove wonder if their home shelters something far more dangerous than an unforgiving landscape.
It’s not long before the dark past collides with the haunting present and deadly secrets come to light.
On the rugged West Coast of New Zealand, Golden Cove is more than just a town where people live. The adults are more than neighbours; the children, more than schoolmates.
An eerie crime thriller in small-town Golden Cove, New Zealand, Anahera returns home after the tragic death of her husband Edward. After finding out that the past four years of her life with her husband were filled with lies and betrayal, she made the decision that Golden Cove would help her heal as well as being far away from the uncontrollable grief of her husband’s mistress. But her homecoming takes a dark turn when a local young woman, Miriama, disappears and the entire town finds itself at a standstill. Secrets are uncovered, serial killers unmasked along with the unpredictable confession of the perpetrator of Miriama’s disappearance and death.
As always, the strength of Nalini Singh’s writing is apparent within A Madness of Sunshine, Singh’s first foray into the thriller/mystery genre. If you are familiar with Nalini Singh’s writing, you will know that many of her previous books, such as the Psy-Changeling Series and the Guildhunter series, interweaves thriller-like aspects to the story itself. Singh has always been a powerhouse writer in her ability to interweave suspense practically seamlessly with complex world-building, incredible character development and intricate plot lines.
Though this novel does not occur in such a breadth of scope like Singh’s other novels that I have mentioned, Singh’s ability to create such an incredibly eerie, dark and wonderful atmosphere kept me on my toes. By atmosphere I refer to the weather being described which added a sense of foreboding as well as a countdown, the nature of the landscape- it’s relentless and ruthless fury- it created such an immersive experience as the reader which added to the overall vibe of the story.
The two main characters, Will and Anahera, were interesting and unique. I found their dynamic to be refreshing but also hopeful. Will’s character was fantastic – his tenacity and commitment to his job and the people of the town, was a thing of beauty. He was extremely intelligent and the way he connected each small link or evidence to reach the conclusions he did, as the reader was right alongside him when he had those ‘lightbulb’ moments, was extremely enjoyable.
Anahera’s character was also quite unique, but Nalini Singh always seems to write extremely strong-willed female protagonists, and Anahera was exactly that. Though I didn’t feel as connected with her as I did with Will, I enjoyed her character, her courage as well as her relationship with Will. I felt that Anahera was quite a complex character, but we were not given the opportunity to really explore her as her own character in any sort of depth. Obviously, it was because the major plot arc of the book was the crime/murder mystery, with the protagonists building relationship pushed more to the periphery.
A Madness of Sunshine delivers but I found that it lacked a certain emotional quality. Not in terms of the emotionality of the story, as Miriama’s disappearance and the resulting grief from her death made me cry, but I felt that the characters themselves did not have particularly great personalities. Singh’s writing always creates such incredible cast of characters, and the ways in which they connect with each other, and those connections blind with their depth and loyalty of those friendships. Here, that felt like it was missing. Especially between Anahera and her best friend Josie, there wasn’t really a connection there. As this aspect is one of Singh’s strengths in her writing, it was noticeable when it was missing in this book and I believe that is why I felt that I didn’t really feel much for the characters. I enjoyed reading them and seeing their stories develop, but it was a superficial type of connection.
However, I do have to point out that this book highlights the atrocities that women can experience in their lives. Domestic violence, spousal violence, sexual violence, abuse, for instance, are just a few aspects of the woman’s experience that are highlighted within this story. Miriama’s story was heartbreaking, a woman who was only ever seen as a possession, a commodity to the men in her life. Miriama’s aunt, a victim of spousal violence, Jemima’s husband being a serial killer and an abusive partner, Anahera the child of domestic violence and an alcoholic, abusive father; at its core, it was a story which highlighted the ways in which women are victimised and abused, but also how women rise up, support each other and find the strength to come out kicking. It wasn’t until I finished reading when I realised this, and I just sat there blinking because that was a powerful element in A Madness of Sunshine.
I am looking forward to more murder mystery novels by Nalini Singh as well as everything else she will be publishing, because she is an absolute fantastic author with incredible talent.