Saturday, 15 September 2018

The Beast Of Kukuyo by Kevin Jared Hosein


The Beast Of Kukuyo by Kevin Jared Hosein
First published in Jamaica by Blouse And Skirt Books today, the 15th September 2018.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository
Wordery
Waterstones (unavailable)
Amazon US / Amazon UK

The Beast of Kukuyo is a gripping mystery told through the eyes of 15-year-old Rune Mathura and set in the 1990s. The gritty tale begins with the disappearance of Dumplin Heera, a fifteen year-old East Indian girl in the quiet rural village of Kukuyo. The murder happens while the town is plunged in darkness and the story unveils a deeper moral darkness festering beneath the surface. In part driven by her keen interest in crime fiction, particularly Murder She Wrote, Rune decides that she has seen too much tragedy without redress.

Having lost her mother in a senseless act of violence, Rune is unable to sit still when her classmate, Dumpling Heera, is found dead in their village. Rune, an incredibly resourceful young woman, sees this as her chance to make a difference and dives headfirst into a swirling mess of secrets buried in the heart of her village. She bucks against the ease with which villagers try to get back to normal and get over the atrocity. But this is no Nancy Drew novel. Rune soon learns that despite her best intentions her eagerness to right this wrong leaves her almost blind to the truth, and the nuances that colour justice.

The Beast of Kukuyo earned second place in the 2017 Burt Award for Caribbean Young Adult Literature. The novel also delves into issues of race, class and gender.

I chose The Beast Of Kukuyo from NetGalley because of Hosein's Trinidadian nationality (one for my WorldReads) and because of the novel's eyecatching cover design. I expected to read a murder mystery but, other than a young girl being discovered dead near the beginning of the story, this novel veers far away from that usual genre fare. Instead we are shown the darkness of life in Kukuyo village, a community blighted by senseless violence, alcoholism and, most strikingly, by a lack of hope. The people of Kukuyo aren't particularly different from people anywhere else, yet their poverty and the squalor of their surroundings dictate how little they can be expected to achieve in their lives. The eponymous Beast Of Kukuyo might be Dumpling Heera's murderer, but I felt it more strongly to be the metaphorical black cloud perpetually hanging over the village.

That paragraph makes The Beast Of Kukuyo sound a depressing novel when in fact it is anything but. Our narrator, Rune, is vivacious and determined, with a strong stubborn streak and I liked her a lot. Raised along with her delinquent brother by their grandfather, she is starkly aware of being excluded from the community because of her darker skin colour and at the beginning of the novel this is a painful truth for Rune to acknowledge. As she becomes ever more aware of other families' lives though, she begins to understand how their spite isn't directed exclusively her way, and that their bullying attitudes are more a way to hide their internal pain. Hosein's characters are all damaged to some extent. Violent parents, manipulative 'friends', prostitutes and fully-fledged gangsters leap vividly from these pages and I got scarily authentic images of this village and its inhabitants. The murder mystery storyline is usually Rune's focus, but flows as an undercurrent through the novel as other events take over leaving Dumpling apparently forgotten.

I didn't really realise that this is intended as a young adult novel until I came to be writing up this review. The story deals with adult issues, although without portraying anything in an overly graphic way, and, as a forty-something reader, I certainly appreciated the tale and Hosein's evocative prose. Perhaps the narrative line wasn't quite distinct enough in places for my taste and it took me a little while to get into the story, however once I was hooked, I didn't want to cease reading!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Kevin Jared Hosein / Young adult books / Books from Trinidad and Tobago

4 comments:

  1. I would have never guessed there was all that hidden depth in it after reading the blurb. Neat that you got to see the village life and get to know the people and not just get a murder mystery.

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    1. There was a lot more to this story than its synopsis suggested

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  2. Wow this one sounds like it has a lot more in it than what you would expect picking it up. Thanks for the review because it's given me a lot more insight and now I know what to expect, which is not the murder mystery taking the stand front. It sounds more like the people and themes are of real importance here. Good thing that's what I like ;)

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    1. It's pretty dark, but I was pleasantly surprised by the depth to the story

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