The following review was written by Daniel Casey, author of the Ascendant Realms Series, In 2006 he ran for the US House of Representatives from Connecticut as a member of the Green Party. From 2008-2014, he edited Gently Read Literature, an electronic magazine of book reviews focusing on contemporary poetry and literary fiction. Daniel currently writes freelance articles on North American soccer for online sports sites and magazines.
Between Two Fires is the first novel in the planned trilogy Dread Desires from Toni Williams. This debut is a murder mystery set in the Caribbean on the fictional Elysian Island off the coast of St. Lucia as well as in the city of Soufriere on Saint Lucia. While presented at first as the story of a man getting entangled and overwhelmed by a smart, independent-minded woman, the story quickly takes a turn into more familiar thriller territory. In fact, Williams creates a sort of Caribbean crime noir novel which manages to not just fit the genre well but open up a lot of interesting possibilities with the storytelling.
It’s not rare to encounter escapist island fiction, a species of the thriller/romance novel that appeals to the vacationing sensibilities of casual readers. But there is a rather strong Caribbean literature that is at once literary and generalist that isn’t as nearly as well known as it should be. For me, the genre has always been on the periphery yet ever present. I’d find an old Stuart Hall article in my files and go on a binge or decide I needed to read more Jamaica Kincaid, but it always needled me that I was merely rehashing and not discovering new, contemporary writers from Barbados, Trinidad, Haiti, Jamaica, etc. Just because you read Derek Walcott doesn’t mean you understand the richness and variety of the literature of the Caribbean.
It was after I had finished Roxane Gay’s novel An Untamed State (a challenging work of fiction), that this really hit home with me. There was a whole field of English literature of which I had only the most superficial grasp. Enter Toni Williams’ novel Between Two Fires that takes as its setting the island of St. Lucia. Read more