HAYFORD PEIRCE “Fire in the Islands.” Short story. Joe Caneili #2. First published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, April 1995. Collected in Trouble in Tahiti: P. I. Joe Caneili, Discretion Assuree. (Wildside, paperback, 2000).

   Joe Caneili, a former farmboy from Bookbinder, Kansas, had spent twenty-three years in the French Foreign Legion before retiring and setting up shop in Tahiti as probably that island’s only licensed private investigator. There is not a lot of call for his services in that lightly populated economic and political center of French Polynesia, and in this, his second recorded case, it is personal as much as anything else.

   For when the husband of the house next door burns down the house next door, Caneili’s home next door, which he rents from the couple, go up in flames with it, along with all of his possessions, as sparse as they are. His assignment, find the husband, who has disappeared. His client, the wife. It isn’t much of a case, and the husband, widely known as a practical joker, is not difficult to find. But the story is fun to read, largely because of the light, semi-humorous touch Peirce uses to tell the tale.

   Hayford Peirce, the author, is better known as a SF writer, often using time travel in his work and having, according to one reviewer, a Jack Vance style of writing, which is not a bad style to be using at all. He has also written several stories about extra-sized Commissaire Alexandre Tama, also of Tahiti, whose cases sometimes overlap with Caneili, as it happens here. His adventures have also been collected in paperback form by Wildside Press.

      The Joe Caneili series —

The Stolen Grandfather (ss) Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine July 1985
Fire in the Islands (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine April 1995
The Missing House (nv) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine July 1995
A Matter of Face (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine February 1998
The Girl in the Picture (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Sep/Oct 1999
Le Père Noël on Christmas Island (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Januay 2012
Crime Wave Batters Tahiti (ss) Trouble in Tahiti (Wildside Press, 2000)
The Lethal Leeteg (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine August 2013