Title: The Devil in the Bush
Author: Matthew Head
ISBN: 1933397217, Felony & Mayhem, 2005
Genre: Amateur Sleuth, #1 Dr. Mary Finney mystery
First Line: That was a wonderful job I had in 1943.
World War II is raging and young government flunkey, Hooper Taliaferro, finds himself on a mission out in the boonies of the Belgian Congo. He is supposed to be dealing with the owner of the Congo-Ruizi plantation, but when he gets there he discovers that the owner is dead. At first thought to be death by disease, the true cause of death is poison. Who would want to poison André de l'Andréneau? At first Hooper doesn't seem overly concerned about it; this young man tends to be interested in other things:
The first thing I always wonder about new people is what they manage to do for a living and how they arrange their sex life, because it seems to me that those two activities plus sleep and a movie or two account for most people's twenty-four hours a day.It doesn't take long for Hooper to run into Dr. Mary Finney, a Yankee version of Miss Marple. She likes the amiable young man, but has no illusions of his powers of deduction: "You're a nice kid, Hoopie," Mary Finney told me, "but you're blind as a bat. I'll tell you when it's time." Finney has strong opinions about everyone and everything. She's convinced she knows what really happened, and she sets about to prove it.
The Devil in the Bush was originally published in 1945, and as a depiction of life in the Belgian Congo at that time, I did enjoy it. However, the plot was too derivative of Conan Doyle and Christie, and the two main characters were two-dimensional. Perhaps I've been reading too many mysteries lately that are very complex, but The Devil in the Bush was a Wham! Bam! Thank you, ma'am! piece of crime fiction that really didn't satisfy.