A Year of Orenda – A Death in the Family by Michael Stanley

Today I’m thrilled to continue my catch up of the Detective Kubu series from Michael Stanley, aka authors Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. I was very late to the party but happy to be invited and A Death in the Family, the second book published by Orenda, is another cracker. Kubu is back, and this time it is personal. Before I tell you what I think, here’s what the book is all about:

Source: Competition Win

About the Book

There’s no easy way to say this, Kubu. Your father’s dead. I’m afraid he’s been murdered.’

Faced with the violent death of his own father, even Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Bengu, Botswana CID’s keenest mind, is baffled. Who would kill such a frail old man? The picture becomes even murkier with the apparent suicide of a government official. Are Chinese mine-owners involved? And what role does the US Embassy have to play?

Set amidst the dark beauty of modern Botswana, A Death in the Family is a thrilling insight into a world of riots, corruption and greed, as a complex series of murders present the opera-loving, wine connoisseur detective with his most challenging case yet. When grief-stricken Kubu defies orders and sets out on the killers’ trail, startling and chilling links emerge, spanning the globe and setting a sequence of shocking events in motion. Will Kubu catch the killers in time … and find justice for his father?

My Thoughts

What a way to start a story. Poor Kubu. The love and respect he has for his father has always been clear so to be told that he has been murdered … Well it’s no wonder that it blindsides our hero and throws him completely out of whack. After all, who could possibly want to murder a man who is slowly succumbing to dementia and poses no harm to anyone? To add to his troubles, Kubu is, quite naturally, sidelined from the investigation and kept largely in the dark over what is happening for fear he may try to take matters into his own hands. to be fair, with Kubu, doing that makes it a sure fire self fulfilling prophecy, but where would the fun be if he just sat back and toed the line?

This book is a blend of police thriller and political and industrial corruption in which the action centres around not only the murder of Kubu’s father, but the building unrest in the community of Shoshong where there are divisions between the Town Elders and the youth over whether permission should be given to expand a local mine. The authors have managed to create a real sense of the of the conflict between the traditional values of the older generation and the desperation of the younger locals to be more and have more than current circumstances allow. In their eyes, the Elders stand in the way of progress and, more importantly, employment, but it is clear that there is something far bigger at stake, something that is worth killing for. The former aspect of the story, that of the old verses the new, really rings true and although, thankfully, entirely fictitious, is grounded in a reality that sees expansion of other nationalities, especially the Chinese, across the African continent. There is that whole exploration of corporate greed and political corruption, that is based not too far from the truth that carries an undercurrent of unease and conspiracy throughout the novel.

Kubu and his family are characters I have come to like very much and seeing them all in such turmoil really tugs at the heartstrings. Seeing the usually strong Kubu forced out of the investigation, his whole spirit being knocked leaving him at times to appear like a fish out of water, show you the more emotional side of the man who is absolutely devoted to those he loves. As well as the emotional side of the story, there are some lighter moments too, especially the scenes where Kubu is taken well out of his comfort zone, sent to New York on behalf of his boss, to represent the Botswana Police at an international conference. He is about as far from his natural environment as you could imagine, although the healthy portions at dinner meet his expectations, even if the prices don’t.

Once again it is great to seem Detective Samantha Khama take centre stage, her tenacity and instincts proving invaluable when it comes to catching some of the prime suspects unawares. A stickler for the rules, perhaps some of Kubu’s personality is rubbing off on her as she has proven, yet again, that she will do what it takes to bring a killer to justice, even if it is a little, how should I put it, outside of strict procedure. She makes a good student and an even better Detective, even if it is hard for Kubu to fully trust her to do the right thing or to find his father’s killer.

Bringing to life a real sense of the traditional culture and landscape of Botswana, this another great mystery in the Kubu series. This is the cosier side of crime, no doubt, but it is packed full of mystery, emotion and political back handedness that will have you both completely incensed and thoroughly entertained. A top read.

About the Author

Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. Stanley was an educational psychologist, specialising in the application of computers to teaching and learning, and is a pilot. Michael specialises in image processing and remote sensing, and teaches at the University of the Witwatersrand. On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award.

Books by the Authors

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