Today I’m sharing my thoughts on the third book in the Detective Kubu series – my last (for now) because I always have tended to read books out of order 🤨😉. I have love playing catch up with Kubu to fill in some of those gaps and seeing all the trials and tribulations the authors have put him through! Here’s what the book is all about:
About the Book
The third novel in the fantastic Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu crime series, set in the southern Kalahari area of Botswana – a place full of buried lost cities, incredible hidden wealth, ancient gods and, for thousands of years, home to the nomadic Bushmen.
When a fractious ranger named Monzo is found dead, fallen into a donga – a dry ravine – surrounded by three Bushmen, the local police arrest the nomads. Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu is on the case, which reunites him with his old school friend Khumanego, a Bushman and now an advocate for his people.
Khumanego believes the arrests are motivated by racist antagonism from the police, as the Bushmen are claiming that they were at the murder scene because they were trying to help.
Soon after Monzo’s death, Detective ‘Kubu’ learns of another case involving two botany students on their way back from a specimen-collecting trip but who were later found dead, seemingly poisoned, at a campground. Could the deaths be connected?
Aww. It almost feels like the end of a journey. Maybe a bit of a pitstop rather than an end, but what a place to pause. Death of the Mantis is book three in the series but you can really feel that the authors have settled into their character, their storytelling and all of the wonderful elements that make Botswana such a brilliant backdrop for the Kubu series.
Although this may be a work of fiction, the indigenous Bushman population is a work of fact. Well … sort of. By their own admission, this being such a traditional tribe of people, there are many conflicting stories, but the fact of them living off the land, never taking more than they need and always ensuring there is something for the next. person who happens along … Well, lets just say there are a lot of people, myself included, who could learn much from these people and their respect for their environment. And, sadly, there is a loot we can recognise in the way in which they are treated with suspicion by their fellow Botswana countrymen. That desire to force them to conform to the new way of life, to living in the city and the whole concept of ‘ownership of things’. If we were to translate that situation to modern western culture, it is the same kind of animosity and suspicion that is cast upon the Traveller and Gypsy populations. So much of the prejudice and persecution rang true, mimicked throughout history, a lesson it seems we can never learn.
Kubu has had quite a life change since we last saw him and so being dragged into the desert by an old school friend to try and prove the innocence of three Bushmen accused of murder does not make him at all popular. Never mind the opinion of the investigating Detective, or even his boss, Mabaku, he is leaving a very tired and very emotional Joy at home, the impact of which can be felt as a real chill in the hot Botswana air. It’s a complex and multi-faceted case, so many angles which lend themselves towards both the potential guilt and innocence of the Bushmen, that it is hard to know who the guilty party really is. As the case escalates, the body count increases, Kubu’s sixth sense kicks in. I love the fact that in this story there are a lot of red-herrings (strange to find herring in the middle of a desert!) but also a real sense of threat that underlines the whole action. So many seemingly unconnected cases plaguing the area, with the BUshmen the only tenuous link between them all.
I love the character in this book. Kubu is a larger than life policeman (literally and figuratively) his presence always felt when he is around. He has great intuition, apart from perhaps where his wife is concerned, but. an absolute love of his family, food, and solving mysteries. He’s a direct contrast to his boss, Mabaku, who is gruff and short tempered but the perfect counter to Kubu’s enthusiasm which could often see him in trouble. Certainly the case this time around when the investigation takes a shocking turn. A number of life or death scenarios that see our hero in real jeopardy. There are lighthearted moments too, some scenes which will make fans of the series smile, that serve to offset those darker moments. Not that they are every really that dark. This is sunshine noir. As Kubu learns quickly enough, there really aren’t that many shadows in the desert.
I loved the sense of tradition that came out of this story. The mix of the old and the new and the contrast between the city folk and the Bushmen. The story had me completely hooked, one of my favourites in the whole series, and it certainly kept me guessing well into the story. I can understand the killer’s motives, to a degree, even if their methods to achieve their aim were very questionable. Do the ends ever justify the means? Well – read the book and you can ponder that question for yourself. Another brilliant Kubu mystery. I can definitely recommend this series.
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.