Today I’m sharing my thoughts on the first book in the Detective Kubu series by Michael Stanley, A Carrion Death. I started my journey with Kubu very later, reading what was, in effect book six, then the prequel, before going back to books four and five last year as part of my Orenda Books catch up. It seemed only right that I went back to the very beginning to see how it all started. Here’s what book one is all about.
About the Book
A stunning crime novel set against a backdrop of poachers, witch doctors, diamond smugglers and corruption.
They find the first body near a waterhole considered magical by the local bush people. A string of clues suggests that the victim was murdered and his identity hidden.
For Assistant Superintendent David Kubu Bengu, it’s obvious from the start that sinister forces are at work. A convivial figure on the surface, Kubu is a clever and resourceful lawman, well-versed in Botswana’s deadliest secrets.
As he follows a blood-soaked trail he uncovers a chain of crimes linked to the most powerful figures in the country -influential enemies who will stop at nothing to remove those who stand in their way…
I really enjoy the Detective Kubu stories. For me they sit just beyond the limits of cosy crime, but not quite dark enough to be genuine noir noir. The term ‘sunshine noir’ is a contradiction in itself after all. Detective David ‘Kubu’ Bengu as a character is jovial, kind, family and food loving and a very hard person not to like. But for all his addiction to food and steelworks, there is a very keen and logical mind in play, and a determination which you know will see him get to the bottom of whatever puzzle or case is in front of him.
Botswana as a setting makes for a very varied story. Contrasting the urban areas with the desert based safari, as well as the very industrial Botswana Cattle and Mining Company with the very traditional communities and the superstitious elements of the Botswana culture, the story really keeps you on your toes but also brings to life a very vibrant country in a way which kept me hooked to the story. Add in a perplexing mystery, of fraud, manipulation and mutilation and the scene is set for a thrilling adventure as deadly as the desert in the midday sun.
The story really begins with the discovery of human remains by a scientist completing some research out in the desert. Someone has gone to great lengths to disguise the identity of this victim, making it a very hard case for Kubu to get to the bottom of. But this is only one part of the mystery. On the other hand, we are also faced with a seeming power struggle and potential industrial subterfuge in one of the countries most important businesses – The Botswana Cattle and Mining Company (BCMC for short). How the two elements tie together is perhaps far more apparent to the reader than the detectives, but then we are armed with far more information. Don’t let that fool you into thinking you know what is going on though. Nothing is quite that simple or straightforward. And there is a far greater level of danger and threat than you might imagine, all of which adds up to a very intriguing case.
I love the character of Kubu. He may appear laid back but when fired up he can be quite the tenacious and formidable character. He can also be a stubborn character and infuriating to his superior, Director Mabaku, but those are the scenes that can be more fun to watch. He knows how to play the game, and there is something of the Poirot about him. Far more intelligent and alert than his personality may convey, he is dedicated to his job, and his wife, Joy, and he certainly brings the sunshine to the story. The authors really do know how to bring the characters to life and from the threatening, and untrustworthy adversaries who are hiding in plain sight, to Kubu’s closest family, colleagues and friends, each one is brilliantly drawn and unique in personality. Between them and the way in which the country and the communities are portrayed, I felt as though I was transported right to the heart of Gabarone and the surrounding villages that make up Kubu’s world.
This is not my first Kubu book, but it is the first in the series, and as an introduction to Kubu, Botswana and the deliciously fascinating blend of superstition, mystery, character and country, it’s definitely recommended.
About the Author’s
Michael Stanley is the writing name of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both natives of Africa, we have traveled regularly together to Botswana and Zimbabwe over the past twenty years to experience the country with its wide diversity and interesting peoples. Our books reflect the authentic Africa of the 21st century: not merely the politically unstable, desperately poor Africa of the nightly news, but also the emotional conflicts of people with one foot in traditional culture and the other in Western-instigated globalism. The new Africa is not a safari jungle, but a collection of diverse groups and nations struggling to find their way in a rapidly changing context.