Today it is my absolute pleasure to share my thoughts on A Deadly Covenant, the brand new Detective Kubu story from Michael Stanley. I love this series and am loving getting to know a younger version of everyone’s favourite Hippo. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invite. Here’s what the book’s all about:
About the Book
When a human skeleton is discovered at the site of a controversial new dam in remote northern Botswana, rookie Detective Kubu is drawn into a terrifying local feud, and discovers a deadly covenant that could change everything…
While building a pipeline near the Okavango Delta, a contractor unearths the remains of a long-dead Bushman. Rookie Detective David ‘Kubu’ Bengu of Botswana CID and Scottish pathologist, Ian MacGregor, are sent to investigate, and MacGregor discovers the skeletons of eight more men.
Shortly after the gruesome discoveries, the elder of a nearby village is murdered in his home. The local police are convinced it was a robbery, but Kubu isn’t so sure … and neither is the strange woman who claims that an angry river spirit caused the elder’s death.
As accusations of corruption are levelled and international outrage builds over the massacre of the Bushman families, Kubu and his colleagues uncover a deadly covenant, and begin to fear that their own lives may be in mortal danger…
I love young Kubu. I mean, older Kubu is a fabulous character, but learning more about how he came to be the Detective we all know and love, seeing the process of him moving from rookie investigator, making a few errors but still showing a keen sense of purpose and logic, has been fascinating. In A Deadly Covenant, we not only get to see the further development of the friendship between Kubu and Scottish Pathologist, Ian MacGregor, but also more of the mentorship that Kubu has from his boss, Assistant Superintendent Jacob Mabaku of Botswana CID.
The main investigation starts out in a very tragic way, the discovery of a mass grave of nine Bushmen, men, women and children, of a race of native people that is feared and hated by the majority of Batswana, especially the residents of Shakawe. Kubu is dispatched alongside MacGregor, to try and determine if this is a case of foul play or just a simple case of death by natural causes. What follows is an unexpected change of pace for Kubu and the investigation, ending in the brutal murder of one of the local councilmen. The local police seem determined to pin the murder on one lone Bushman, Selelo, but Kubu is not so sure. And when Kubu thinks things are not what they seem, we all know from experience, that it pays to take note.
I really love the way in which Michael Stanley bring the whole essence of Botswana to life. From the portrayal of the communities and that sense of tribal tradition and deference to their local leaders, to the way in which they bring the landscape to life in glorious colour, they always manage to put you in the heart of the action. I find the pacing of the books is just perfect, the mystery and tension pitched just right to keep be completely engaged by the story, but they always leave me wanting more. I find myself stopping on occasion, not because I’m not captivated by the investigation, but more that I am so invested in it, in the people and he culture, that I want to go and learn more about it. The imagery is so vivid that I want to learn all I can, and I need to hide my phone so that I don’t end up down a mid-story research rabbit hole!
This particular story is one of tragedy and emotion, and whilst it may not be as fast paced as many a criminal investigation style of novel, the pacing suits the setting and the very essence of the story. This is a tale that has waited decades to be uncovered and, as is often the way in cold cases, progress is slow. Add in elements of environmental concern, and the poor treatment of Bushmen, often found guilty of crime in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and the authors show how prejudice and racism is a blight that is shared by all cultures and communities.
Misunderstanding and mistrust, and that sense of superiority and entitlement that leads to vile and abhorrent acts for a backdrop to the book, but in truth there are so many threads that is takes a very skilful pair of authors to draw them together. That is exactly what we have here, the truth displayed with such clarity that I have to give credit to Michael Stanley for the direction they have chosen to take. Perhaps not typical justice as we might expect it, but a fitting ending nonetheless.
I really do like Kubu as a character. He’s fun. Naive maybe in these early years, but I love the way the authors play with him, exploring his emotions and his growth as a character. His nervousness and insecurity over his fledgling relationship with Joy is really sweet to read and just makes me love Kubu even more. But it is his unrelenting belief in others, particularly Selelo, which really gives us the heart of these novels. He is a wonderful character and, as we are seeing now, starting to become the rounded (metaphorically and physically) Detective we know and love.
Definitely recommended for fans of the series, and for those looking for a touch of the sunnier, but still tragically authentic, side of crime fiction.
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 Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger.
The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award for Best Paperback Original mystery and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award. A Death in the Family and Dying to Live are the latest in the Detective Kubu series, published in 2017 by Orenda Books. Dead of Night the standalone thriller, was published in 2018.
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