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Devil-Devil: A Sister Conchita and Sergeant Kella Mystery Hardcover – February 8, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Crime; First Am edition edition (February 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569478732
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569478738
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,582,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Product Description
It's not easy being Ben Kella. As a sergeant in the Solomon Islands Police Force, as well as an aofia, a hereditary spiritual peacekeeper of the Lau people, he is viewed with distrust by both the indigenous islanders and the British colonial authorities. In the past few days he has been cursed by a magic man, stumbled across evidence of a cargo cult uprising, and failed to find an American anthropologist who had been scouring the mountains for a priceless pornographic icon. Then, at a mission station, Kella discovers an independent and rebellious young American nun, Sister Conchita, secretly trying to bury a skeleton. The unlikely pair of Kella and Conchita are forced to team up to solve a series of murders that tie into all these other strange goings-on.

Set in the 60's in one of the most beautiful and dangerous areas of the South Pacific, Devil-Devil launches an exciting new series.



Graeme Kent on Writing Devil-Devil

Devil-Devil owes its inception to the last words of a dying man almost half a century ago. I was working as a Schools Broadcasting Officer in the remote and beautiful Solomon Islands in the South Pacific in the 1960s. For eight years I travelled hundreds of miles, usually by small boat and then on foot or by canoe, sleeping in the thatched single classrooms by night before going on to the next island and the next school. I was always greeted with the greatest friendship and hospitality by all the villagers I met. They would provide me with food, usually fish, taro and coconuts, and help me on the next stage of my journey through crocodile- and shark-infested waters and over the mountainous, thickly forested interiors.

On one occasion I visited a small village surrounded by palm trees in the Marovo Lagoon in the Western Solomons. I was told that an old man was dying and had heard that a white man had arrived; he wanted to see me urgently. I entered his small hut and the old man told his grieving relations to leave.

The old man spoke only one sentence: ‘Once I killed a white man!’ Presumably he had wanted to ease his conscience to the first visitor from the outside world that he had encountered. The old man said no more. He died several days later and was buried among the palm trees of his lagoon island. When I returned to Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, I took up the matter with the authorities only to discover that there were no unsolved murders involving an expatriate on record.

Intrigued, I spent many months looking into the matter during my travels. Eventually I came across one story which could be linked to the old islander’s confession. In 1942, the Japanese had invaded Guadalcanal, one of the islands of the Solomons. Most expatriates, including government officials, left the island, and law and order broke down completely. One white prospector had been camping out on a mountain known as Gold Ridge. He had caught a fever and died, only a few days before the Japanese troops arrived in force on the mountain.

However, when I investigated this story, I discovered that there were persistent rumors that the sick man had been murdered by islanders, then been buried in an unmarked grave by villagers who were afraid the invading Japanese would punish them for harboring the enemy.

No one would ever confirm or deny this report, and the inhabitants of Gold Ridge would not even discuss what had happened. It may not even have happened at all. For many years afterwards I could not help wondering if the dying man had killed the gold miner, and why.


From Booklist

Kent�s first mystery is the beginning of a new and promising series set in the early 1960s in the Solomon Islands and featuring Sergeant Kella and Sister Conchita. Kella is an educated native and seen by both the British colonials and his own people as a leader of the future; as a result, he feels free to do what he thinks is best, regardless of the rules. Sister Conchita is a newly arrived missionary from America who is both ambitious and willing to question authority. After an anthropologist goes missing, the sergeant and the missionary team up to solve what eventually becomes a series of murders. The troublemaking duo proves unstoppable, despite the fact that no one quite trusts them. The atmosphere and setting are integral to both character and plot and lend a unique note to this solid mystery. Definitely a series to watch. --Jessica Moyer

Customer Reviews

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DEVIL-DEVIL is more than a great mystery.
E. Crowley
His hero-detective, Ben Kella, is well-drawn and interesting.
T. Donovan
I can't wait for more books to appear in this series!
Cathy G. Cole

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By T. Donovan on March 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was getting tired of Scandinavian mysteries so I thought I'd give this a try. I am so glad I did! The time and place are exotic but the author's exposition and explanations never seem heavy-handed. His hero-detective, Ben Kella, is well-drawn and interesting. The mystery itself had many nuances and reflected the author's interest in presenting a world of two layers and two worldviews, a Western one and a Pacific Islander/Solomons one. My only criticism is that Sister Conchita, the other hero-detective, had dialog that at times seemed contrived and cute, as if the author was working from a stereotype of "feisty, independent nun." I did enjoy the believable platonic bond forming between the two detectives, and I hope that in the next volume we get Sister Conchita's backstory and see her character deepen a bit.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Taylor McNeil on March 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover
It may seem like a pat formula - set a mystery series in an exotic, out-of-the-way locale with lots of local color, toss in a law enforcement officer who is caught between cultures, and stir. But Graeme Kent transcends any genre traps in his impressive debut, Devil-Devil, set in 1960 in the Solomon Islands, a South Pacific archipelago that was a British protectorate until the late 1970s. The protagonists are Sister Conchita, an American nun new to the islands with a talent for causing trouble, and Sergeant Ben Kella, a native of the island of Malaita educated abroad yet still an "aofia," a tough peacekeeper for his Lau people.

Kent builds the narrative cleverly, filling in the back story in careful dollops. He paints a complex portrait of the local islanders -- saltwater villagers and bush villagers alike -- as well as various expats and the conflict (and confluence) of foreign faiths and "custom religion," as the native beliefs are called. Like Jim Chee in Tony Hillerman's Navajo mysteries, Ben Kella is a native cast into the white world, but unlike Chee, he isn't really conflicted: he's comfortable being a part of both.

This being a mystery, the bodies pile up. Kella -- a renegade cop to his colonial boss, a "white blackman" to suspicious locals -- is the man in the middle who can't rest until the killings are solved. Kent keeps the action moving -- and the pages turning -- while educating us about a culture we'd otherwise never know about. Devil-Devil is clearly meant to be the first in a series, and I know I'll be back for the next installment.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Patto TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's 1960 in The Solomon Islands. Behind every illness, misfortune or happy turn of events, the islanders see a ghost. Solving a crime among the natives involves looking for mischief among the spirits. Only Sergeant Kella knows how to do this.

Kella is the senior indigenous police officer on the Islands. He holds university degrees from Sydney and London, but he was also raised from boyhood to be his clan's official peacemaker and protector. Being both a witch doctor and a progressive black, he doesn't completely fit in anywhere.

When Kella meets Sister Conchita at the Catholic mission on Malaita, he quickly becomes her protector. Someone wants her dead. There are three peculiar murders to investigate as well - and an American anthropologist gone missing. Why so much trouble all at once?

Read the book and find out!

Sister Conchita seems to be a jack-of-all-trades - nurse, auto mechanic, bookkeeper - whatever's needed. She and Kella share an inability to do things by the book. They're not exactly partners, but they instinctively help each other.

Devil-Devil falls into a genre that's getting increasingly popular: mysteries set in exotic cultures. The book teems with colorful characters, black and white. It offers the reader many encounters with ritual, from a shark calling ceremony to a visit with a dream maker.

Kella is a totally appealing character, but Sister Conchita feels a bit exaggerated to me. Still, Graeme Kent is off to a wonderful start with his series. I'll be on the lookout for the next book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First Line: Sister Conchita clung to the sides of the small dugout canoe as the waves pounded over the frail vessel, soaking its two occupants.

It is 1960 in the Solomon Islands, which saw some of the fiercest fighting during World War II (Guadalcanal among other battles). Memories of those days are still vivid. Sergeant Ben Kella of the Solomon Islands Police Force knows those days quite well, but he has many other things on his mind. Educated by the whites and now a member of their police force, Kella is still the aofia (spiritual peacekeeper) of the Lau people. His dual roles mean that neither the British colonial government nor the native peoples trust him 100%.

New to the islands is Sister Conchita, a young Catholic nun from Chicago who chose her name because she thought she was being posted to South America and wanted to fit in. She wants to learn native customs and to help these people as much as she possibly can. Her vows of poverty and chastity won't be problems for her, but her vow of obedience may be a backbreaker. Her impetuous desire for doing the right thing means bent and broken rules everywhere she goes:

"In any case, it had always been her philosophy that it was better to apologize profusely after the event than to neglect an opportunity when it arose."

Sergeant Kella has been busy. Within a matter of a few days, he's been cursed by a shaman, stumbled across evidence of an uprising, and been unable to find a missing American anthropologist. When he stops at one of the mission stations, he finds Sister Conchita trying to bury a skeleton on the sly. Little does he know that he'll soon be teaming up with Sister Conchita to solve a series of murders that tie in with all these strange happenings.
Read more ›
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