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Rum Justice: A Caribbean crime novel

2008: Macmillan Caribbean (UK)

With the publication of her novel Rum Justice, St. Lucia-based author and journalist Jolien Harmsen presents the first in a series of gripping Caribbean crime novels set in the fictional island of St Cecilia.
With colourful characters and settings that seem hauntingly familiar, Harmsen propels the reader on a breathtaking journey that is at once terrifying yet uplifting, nostalgic yet powerfully topical.

'Smiley' Riley Jackson is a handsome water-taxi driver whose body one day turns up at sea with his face eaten away by fish and a bullet wound to his chest. The finger of suspicion quickly points to the Cunninghams, wealthy American yachties visiting the Eastern Caribbean island of St Cecilia. Not only has Hazel Cunningham, who was quickly dubbed a djanmèt by the locals, been spending a lot of time with the deceased behind her husband's back, but she has also caught the attention of the close-knit community of LaPointe Sable by threatening to shoot herself a black man - presumably with her husband's unlicensed pistol. Awa!

The quest to bring the Americans to trial on an island where murder is punishable by hanging, sparks an international news frenzy, with the world's media descending on the tiny island paradise: but where, on an economically struggling island run by self-regarding politicians and laid-back officials and with a history of colonialism and slavery are truth and justice to be found - not just for the Americans but for Smiley's friends and family as well?

Author: Jolien Harmsen

Harmsen's writing displays a compelling sense of place and time, while interweaving plotlines bring to mind the events following the 2005 disapperance of American cheerleader, Natalee Holloway on the Dutch West Indian island of Aruba. Coincidentally, Harmsen is herself Dutch, but Rum Justice was written before that fateful incident in 2005 - chillingly presaging the events that would follow.

Rum Justice is published by Macmillan press in the UK, but this is not the first publishing house to have been captivated by both author and novel. Rum Justice was originally adopted by Dutch publishers Luiting-Sijthoff and released in 2003 under the title Rum, Roti, Onrecht (Rum, Roti, Injustice). The novel was particularly well-received by Dutch West Indians for whom the novel held special resonance and reviewers likened Harmsen's writing style to such towering authors as Graham Greene and John Le Carré. Harmsen was shortlisted for the 2004 Schaduwprijs - a sort of Dutch equivalent of the 'Golden Dagger' awards - in the category of best thriller debut.

2003: Luiting-Sijthoff (Netherlands)

Jolien Harmsen holds a PhD in Social History and has worked as a newspaper editor and radio correspondent. She has written several historical studies including a General History of St. Lucia (forthcoming) commissioned by Macmillan Caribbean and Sugar, Slavery and Settlement published in 1999 by the St. Lucia National Trust. Many will also know her writing from numerous articles over the years in Visions, one of St Lucia's glossy tourist magazines.
Harmsen is the correspondent in St Lucia for 'Wereldnet', a live lunchtime programme on Dutch Radio 5 in the Netherlands. She has been based in the southern town of Vieux Fort for more than a decade. Rum Justice is her first crime novel published in English.

1999: St Lucia National Trust
Sugar, Slavery & Settlement - A social history of Vieux Fort St Lucia, from the Amerindians to the present

Rum Justice is available at Sunshine Bookshops and other book outlets around St Lucia. It can also be ordered online directly from, or the author's own website:

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