2013 Global Reading Challenge, Botswana, review

Deadly Harvest by Michael Stanley

deadly harvestDeadly Harvest by Michael Stanley
Bourbon Street Books, April 30, 2013
Detective Kubu book 4

Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher via Edelweiss.

So my quest to complete the 2013 Global Reading Challenge now brings me to Africa, specifically Botswana and the fourth Detective Kubu novel by Michael Stanley, the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip.

Assistant Superintendent David Bengu, known as Kubu, works for the Botswana CID, and in this particular novel he investigates the disappearances of two young girls and the murder of a rising politician. It turns into a story about investigating muti killings, that is, murders done so witch doctors can harvest body parts for their potions. It’s an intractable situation for Kubu and his team: enough people, including the police, believe in the efficacy of witch doctors so they are scared to pursue their murder investigations. It’s a gruesome set-up for a novel, but the novel is not gratuitously violent nor preachy.

Kubu works closely with his boss Mabaku and with new female detective Samantha Khama. The entire police department features prominently in the story: there’s talk of Kubu and Mabaku being promoted, and Kubu runs into issues working on the case because of being stalled by the department.

The tone of this novel is not as outraged as I expected it to be (Khama is the most outraged character), but it definitely has the effect of outraging me even after I’ve read this novel. I think it comes down to the fact that Kubu, Khama, and Mabaku are such principled people who are willing to pursue the investigation despite the pressure not to do so that gives the story a bit of hopefulness.

This novel is dedicated to two human rights activists, Alice Mogwe and Unity Dow, and the authors mention Dow’s book The Screaming of the Innocent in the afterword. I plan on reading it soon.

Just as a sidenote, I haven’t read much African fiction. Besides reading a handful of books from or about Africa in college, I’ve tried The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith and Morituri by Yasmina Khadra but didn’t finish them. I welcome any suggestions for other African crime novels. Deon Meyer is already on my list.

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4 thoughts on “Deadly Harvest by Michael Stanley”

  1. Rebecca – I really want to read this novel as I like the Kubu series. It’s got such a good sense of place and I like the Kubu character. And I can recommend The Screaming of the Innocent. However, be aware that it is a harrowing book. It is hard to read in that sense. Still, it’s well worth the read.

  2. Thanks for your take on the Dow book, Margot. I think I will read it when I’m ready. I remember I had to talk myself into watching the movie Dead Man Walking too, and it was very good. Do you like one of the Kubu novels more than the others?

  3. I have not read any of this series, but I have the first two books. Thus I found your review encouraging; I hope I will like them. I also have one Deon Meyer book, not yet read. A few James McClure books (The Steam Pig is the first one). Kwei Quartey novels, set in Ghana. Note that I have not read any of these. You can see why I need to get started on the Global Challenge.

    1. Thanks for the suggestions, Tracy. I keep chipping away at the Global Challenge, and I seem to dig up a batch of books that will fit but don’t finish or get to them all. I think it’s because I’m reading so many new-to-me authors. I look forward to your reviews.

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