The Day I Died by Glen Peters is Not a Traditional Crime Novel
This is not a traditional crime novel. There is no mystery about who has died as this is revealed in the first few sentences. Nor is the person who has committed the murder very surprising. But this is not the main point.
It is rather the examination of the lives of a series of colourful characters whom we meet: gang leaders, a church minister trying his best, a gypsy underclass, a young ambitious journalist, an immoral police inspector, and two teenage girls attempting survival in a corrupt society.
We Meet Ceri
We first encounter the murdered girl, Ceridwen (Ceri), as a wild child living in Fishguard, Wales. She is 14 at the start of the novel, living a wayward life of sex, drinking and drug taking, with very little respect for authority. She becomes engaged unofficially to a gypsy, Harpo, a habitual troublemaker who soon after the “engagement” is detained in prison for 12 months.
Following an unjust expulsion from school, her mother takes her to the province of Anjuna in Goa and soon after leaves her to fend for herself. Ceri’s mother has travelled north to see her Bhagwan (Guru) in Pune, north of Goa. Her only future contact with Ceri is to ask her for money.
Surviving In Goa
In Anjuna, western visitors (Ferenghi) can have all their needs catered for at the notorious Sunset Lounge bar run by a gang headed by the ruthless Scorpion and his security enforcers the “Beach Boys”. Ceri befriends an English girl, Melita. They survive by selling jewellery on the beach during the day and entertaining visitors at the Sunset Lounge at night.
The balance is upset when an even more ruthless Ukrainian gang arrives on the scene. When the rivalry between the gangs leads to a number of killings, intentional and unintentional, Ceri’s position working at the Sunset lounge, in love with the son of the Ukrainian gang leader and friend of Hari, a gypsy belonging to the much despised Banjara people, becomes increasingly precarious.
After Ceri is murdered, the question is not so much how the culprit will be discovered as whether in such a corrupt society it will be possible to find the real murderer. The police inspector only wants to find someone quickly and is not above torture to get a false confession. The young journalist is looking for a worldwide scoop whether the story being told is true or not. Western press does not get off scot free either as wrong conclusions are drawn.
Throughout it all Ceri is defiant, even after death. I found myself rooting for her despite her ultimate fate being known from the beginning.
The Day I Died by Glen Peters, published 22 October 2021 by The Conrad Press