Jan 1, 1992

The Trouble with Too Much Sun

The Trouble with Too Much Sun
A Simona Griffo Mystery
by Trella Crespi

Where I Get My Ideas

I'd been to a few Club Meds and thought the idyllic setting would be a great backdrop for a murder. Plus I needed a vacation badly.

A Sense of Place -- Imagining a story without first knowing where it takes place would be impossible for me. I think it has to do with feeling rootless for most of my life. I grab on to a place for dear life, hoping it will never go away.


La Caravelle, Club Med, Guadeloupe. The villages of Pointe-à-Pitre and Sainte-Anne, Carbet Falls, and Soufrière volcano.

When Simona's boss gets called back to New York on an agency emergency, she suddenly finds herself in charge of a publicity shoot for Beau Soleil, a sun product line, on the island of Guadaloupe. The job does not proceed smoothly. The photographer is morose and difficult. Simona feels fat and lonely. The model has rocks thrown at her. The island guide Simona hired turns out to be mixed up with gun runners and voodoo. When Simona tries to return a lost two-year-old boy to his mother, she finds the woman's body under the sail of a Windsurfer. The commissioner in charge, Cristophe Beaujoie, believes someone from the club is involved. Simona wants to help.

"Why do you wish to mix yourself up with violent death?" the commissioner asks Simona.

"It comforts me to know that if I work hard enough, I can come up with solutions."

In this book I worked hard to give the reader a sense of the island, its people, its history and cuisine. I was particularly taken by the folktales, and I created a character Papa "La Bouche" (the mouth) who weaves the history of the slaves and folktales together. The story is also drenched in the sensuality of the tropics.

Recurring Characters

* Ellen Price, the model Simona discovered in A Small Raise.
* Stan Greenhouse, her on-and-off-again lover


...Crespi creates a believable inner life for Simona, a transplanted Italian with a keen interest in human nature, lush descriptions of paradise and a whodunit plot that keeps the pages turning. -- Publisher's Weekly
The Beginning

I was buried up to my neck in the gloriously welcoming, warm sand of La Caravelle -- Club Med on Guadeloupe, while Mozart's Jupiter Symphony was allegroing over the sound system to the rhythm of creaking tree frogs and breaking waves. In the past three happy days the late-January sun had warmed, burned, and finally tanned me.

Now it was sunset time, a quiet affair in the Caribbean.

Recipe -- Pasta Crisi (Crisis Pasta)

Serves 4 as a main course

* 2 lbs. ripe plum tomatoes -- thickly sliced lengthwise
* 1/2 bunch arugula -- leaves torn into small pieces (Substitute with watercress if arugula not available.)
* 2 cloves garlic -- minced
* 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
* 1 large mozzarella -- diced
* 8 sun-dried tomato halves (packed in olive oil) -- drained and chopped
* 1/3 cup olive oil
* 1 lb. imported dried penne or spaghetti
* salt and pepper to taste

Heat broiler.

In large serving bowl mix olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, sun-dried tomatoes, and mozzarella.

When broiler is very hot, line the fresh tomato slices on an aluminum-wrapped broiler pan, season with salt and pepper, and broil tomatoes until their edges turn black -- 10 minutes approx. (repeat this process if pan is not large enough to accommodate all the slices.)

Add broiled tomato slices to serving bowl. Add arugula. This sauce can be prepared a few hours ahead of time. Best served at room temperature.

Cook the pasta in a large pot filled with salted boiling water. When the pasta is al dente, drain and transfer to serving bowl. Toss all the ingredients together, letting the hot pasta soften the mozzarella.

Eat and forget the crisis!