Review - THE MORUTAU AFFAIR, Vernon H Baker

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The Morutau Affair
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Book Synopsis

In the steamy jungle of Southern Papua in the early 1950s, a white plantation owner is murdered. Bearing the marks of an horrific knife attack, his body is found in the verandah bedroom of the plantation's main house, four miles inland from Baxter Harbour.The incident proves to be an intriguing case and several suspects are uncovered: an expatriate sub-manager, Papuan natives and the victim's beautiful German born wife. An exciting and compelling story from start to finish.

Book Review

Steamy is right – and not just the weather. THE MORUTAU AFFAIR was not what I was expecting.

Ostensibly about the death of a plantation owner, it's a story made up of current action and flashbacks to the time that he and his wife, met, married and from there, the lead-up to his death. Obviously, given the time and the place, there's a lot of racial interactions which are uncomfortable reading nowadays, but there's nothing about any of it that feels out of place, or gratuitous.

There is, however some very complicated sexual shenanigan's going on. We're not talking erotic – it was more a rather complicated litany of who was sleeping with who and why / when / who else knew. It was same-sex and heterosexual, and it was all a bit odd. Not necessarily because you don't like to think that anybody in the 1950s ever had sex, but rather you have to wonder how so many unusual persuasions all managed to end up in one remote plantation in Southern Papua. Without it being signposted, or deliberate.

THE MORUTAU AFFAIR is an unusual book absolutely no doubt about it. A reasonably interesting puzzle to be solved (most likely of the exactly why as opposed to who variety), with glimpses into some of the aspects of life in remote communities in the 1950s. Perhaps not one for readers who prefer their sexual exploits downplayed.

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