Nothing But Rainforest (74,000 words)

Nothing But Rainforest (74,000 words) is a literary crime thriller with international appeal. It explores trust between men and women and how the environment heightens our fear of the unknown. All the crimes against women in my novel are taken from published reports.

Set in 1987 in a remote part of the Highlands first exposed to the outside world in the 1930s, Simon Jones discovers his predecessor, Marcus Johnson, had vanished two months earlier. After joining a doctor on a medical trip to the jungle, Simon sees a corpse wearing Johnson’s clothes and is worried he will suffer the same fate.

In 1987 in a remote part of the Papua New Guinean Highlands 27-year-old Simon Jones, a British VSO teacher, discovers that his predecessor, an African American called Marcus Johnson, had vanished from the school two months earlier. He hears conflicting stories from the teachers about Johnson’s disappearance. In the nearest town he meets an Australian doctor and joins him on a medical trip where he’s asked to examine a corpse to determine whether the death was due to witchcraft. On seeing the decaying body, Simon recognises the sweatshirt worn by Johnson in a photograph he had seen.

Simon is introduced by the principal’s wife to Evelyn, a primary teacher who was a friend of Johnson. Taking a huge risk in a different culture, he begins a relationship with Evelyn. She tells him that Johnson was in trouble with the father of a female student, called Mara, for allegedly having a sexual affair. The last time she saw Johnson, he was planning to visit his sick mother in America. Simon and Evelyn are shocked to hear that Johnson’s family have filed a missing person’s report. After a visit by Johnson’s father, they realise Johnson had been threatened for questioning violence against women and its association with witchcraft and the Pentecostal church.

A student tells Simon that just before Johnson disappeared, he visited the village where the corpse was found. Against Evelyn’s advice, Simon goes there, but is turned away. On his journey home, he meets Mara who reluctantly reveals that Johnson had accidentally killed her father who is a Pentecostal pastor. That evening, Mara’s uncle visits Simon and threatens him for asking about Johnson. If Simon doesn’t do as he says, he’ll suffer the same fate as Johnson. Simon realises he has a responsibility as a witness and has to escape.

First page of 'Nothing But Rainforest'