A Sort of Caribbean Noir by Daniel Casey
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.
A Review by Rosaliene Bacchus for Three Worlds One Vision
Between Two Fires by Caribbean author Toni Williams is the first book in his crime noir trilogy, Dread Desires. Williams takes us to the fictitious Elysian Island off the coast of Saint Lucia. Driven by desire for another man’s wife, Rudy Phillips, a struggling black British journalist, pursues her to their exclusive paradise.
Rudy is no stranger to the region. Born in Saint Lucia, he was nine when he migrated to England. Still single at thirty-four, he sports shoulder-length dreadlocks and a pencil mustache and beard. Oozing sexy charm, he’s a success with the ladies. No woman before has captured his mind, heart, and body like Bridget – the beautiful, white American wife of a British aristocrat, Lord Edward Henry Tennyson, thirty-two years her senior.
After meeting the couple in London during an assignment for a local tabloid, Rudy had a two-week-long liaison with Bridget. Believing that he could free Bridget from her unhappy marriage and claim her as his own, Rudy accepts her husband’s invitation to spend two months, all expenses paid, on Elysian Island.
Author Toni Williams is a master at submerging us into life on the privately-owned, three-square-mile island bought and developed by Edward. Among its residents are rich and famous Americans, European nobility, and upper-class Brits. In contrast to the affluence of “the fairy-tale land of ineffable beauty,” the village where the local workers live takes Rudy “back in time about a hundred years.” Read more.