A Canadian filmmaker, currently held in a Tahitian jail on a trumped-up, politically motivated, accessory-to-murder charge, spends her time while imprisoned writing her memoirs. Liv plans to send the completed manuscript to the daughter she gave up for adoption in an attempt to share and embrace family identity.
The key element of Liv's search begins with an artifact, "Henderson's Spear", an ornate weapon that has long been a family heirloom. While cleaning and packing boxes following her mother's recent death, Liv finds the journals of Frank Henderson, a seafaring man whose history may be linked to that of her father, Jon, long missing in action over the South Seas.
In alternating chapters, Wright offers Liv's story and Henderson's tale of South Sea's adventures from his youth. The stories eventually intersect, revealing unexpected truths for Liv, who is aided in her troubles by a loyal married friend.
There is certainly no shortage of mystery or tropical locations. Indeed, this is Gauguin's Tahiti, green and lush with the extravagant bounty of a land favored by the gods. This novel is all the more disappointing for its lost opportunities. Wright's style is as pedantic and tedious as a sermon on a hot Sunday afternoon. At times, I found it difficult to sustain sufficient interest to track the continuity from one chapter to the next. By the end, of course, all is revealed, but in a confusing manner. The mystery's solution remains an enigma even after the plot reaches its apex, brick by weighty brick.
Wright's protagonist might have fared better as a man. His writing is distinctly male, causing Liv to appear wooden, her thought processes and emotions distinctly masculine. No doubt the long-lost daughter scenario is an effort to link Liv to some aspect of femininity. With a little more passion, this story could have unlimited potential for the drama and mystery of an exotic locale, but, for this reader, Henderson's Spear misses the target by a mile. My favorite part of the book is the quote before Chapter One: "No one lives under palm trees unpunished". -Goethe, Die Wahlverwandtschaften, 1809.