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.