Today I’m sharing my thoughts on the second book in the Detective Kubu series, A Deadly Trade by Michael Stanley. I’ve been enjoying this Jubu catch up and this one certainly sees Kubu pushed to the limit. Here’s what the book is all about:
About the Book
The second in the fantastic crime series, featuring connoisseur Assistant Superintendant David ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Police Force.
When a mutilated body is found at a tourist camp in northern Botswana, the corpse displays the classic signs of a revenge killing. But when fingerprints are analysed Detective ‘Kubu’ makes a shocking discovery: the victim is already dead. He was slain in the Rhodesian war thirty ago.
Kubu soon realises that nothing at the camp is as it seems. And as the guests are picked off one by one, time is running out. With rumours of horrifying war crimes, the scent of a drug-smuggling trail and mounting pressure from his superiors to contend with, Kubu forgets there is one door left unguarded – his own. And as he sets a trap to find a murderer, the hunters are closing in on him…
What I have enjoyed about these books, is not only getting to know more about Detective David ‘Kubu’ Bengu and all of his family and colleagues, but also in getting to know more about Botswana, it’s history and its culture. The authors take us on a journey with each new book, exploring different areas and different aspects of Botswana life, in a respectful and yet adventure filled way. This time around we also face some of the history of Botswana’s neighbour, Zimbabwe, a country which has suffered its own share of conflict and tension and whose history feeds perfectly into this new Kubu mystery.
The opening of the book really sets the scene, pulling me in as a reader and making me intrigued as to what has happened but, perhaps more importantly, why. There is a sense that what occurs feeds back into the past, but not really how, and the severity of the case, they very torturous way in which the first victim appears to have been dispatch, certainly seems to imply that it is something especially grave and heinous. But this is only one part of the mystery and the further we move into the case, the more twisted it becomes. There are so many different elements to this book, but the authors are very skilled at keeping them separate right up until the most appropriate time to pull them all together. We slowly build a clearer picture alongside Kubu and his colleagues, and the mystery remains just that a long way into the novel. It works perfectly and keeps pacing fast and interest high.
There is another reason the pacing of this book felt quite quick, despite the natural frustrations experienced by Kubu and his fellow Detective Tatwa. There is a real sense of threat throughout the books, and a few scenes in which the tension is really ramped up, driving the story onward and making me all the more intrigued by what I was reading. The case becomes very personal for Kubu as his family comes under threat, but it was nice to see that it wasn’t solely down to Kubu to save the day. Nice touch by the author’s which shows the strength of the female characters in the book in very difficult circumstances.
There are some hard scenes to read in the book too. Nothing is graphic or gratuitous, but this is a story which is informed by civil war, and it is inevitable to a degree that some of the atrocities that occurred in Zimbabwe should come to bear in the story. The authors have played it very carefully, not glorifying the violence, or trivialising it, but showing how the impacts of something that may have happened thirty years earlier can still play upon its victims today. I’ll admit to not knowing a lot of the history of Zimbabwe before reading this book, but the story makes enough clear to understand the situation, to help to digest some of what is happening and why. That blend of the grim realities of history and the wider troubles that followed in its wake, make for a compelling and sadly believable story.
Characters and setting are two of the key aspects of these books which make them so fun to read and once again Michael Stanley have created a cast of characters that you can love, loathe and fear in equal measure. I loved getting to know Tatwa – Setswana for giraffe – the absolute opposite to Kubu – the hippo – in every way. They work well together, Tatwa learning from and deferring to Kubu’s experience, but also slowly coming into his own as the book progresses. But from the camp, to the city, to the poverty stricken towns and villages of Zimbabwe, the authors create such a vivid image of the surroundings that you feel as though you are there in the heart of the story. It makes me all the more intrigued to learn about the countries.
Another fun, tense, mystery laden read from the masters of sunshine noir. I’m almost sad my journey is nearly over. I love catching up with Kubu, a series I’d heartily recommend you read.
About the Author
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.