Umboi Island is the third installment in the Creature X series, and it follows Laura Reagan as she travels to Papua New Guinea with the rest of her team to film the ominous beast spotted in Umboi Island’s thicket. But when the past catches up to them, a murder is the last thing she expects to have to solve.
The novel is the perfect blend of mystery and humor, huge quantities of which are braided into the plot to embellish both the dialogue and the narrative itself. In fact, the fast pace of the novel accommodates a twofold mystery; the case of the bioluminescent ropen, a pterosaur-like creature haunting the island by night, and the murder that scrambles the serenity within the research camp.
The two coalesce, turning the sweaty jungle into a trap, a basis for the plot’s mounting sense of claustrophobia. The chummy dynamic between the characters makes the perils they face truly unsettling, and since peace is a seemingly unknown state of mind to each of them, the suspense this creates is sensational.
It affects Umboi Island’s other layers, stimulating plenty of action sequences, which succeed in turning the novel into a panoramic movie playing behind open eyelids. What’s surprising is that the island’s elusive creature is all but forgotten for most of the plot, allowing for much more mundane matters between hostile parties to take center stage.
While still mystifying, and undeniably distracting, this shift in focus comes across as a little underwhelming when weighed against the novel’s initial premise. Nevertheless, Umboi Island is a tremendously fun murder mystery, full of savvy characters, sensory depictions of a lush jungle, and morbid lawlessness.
Note: The book can be read as a stand-alone mystery.
Publication date: March 8, 2022 (Dundurn Press)