29 August 2016

A Death in the Family - blogtour

Image from http://orendabooks.co.uk
A Death in the Family (Detective Kubu 5)
Michael Stanley
Orenda Books, 15 August 2016
PB, 312pp
Source: Review copy from the publisher

"There’s no easy way to say this, Kubu. Your father’s dead. I’m afraid he’s been murdered."

Faced with the violent death of his own father, even Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Bengu, Botswana CID’s keenest mind, is baffled. Who would kill such a frail old man? The picture becomes even murkier with the apparent suicide of a government official. Are Chinese mine-owners involved? And what role does the US Embassy have to play? 

Set amidst the dark beauty of modern Botswana, A Death in the Family is a thrilling insight into a world of riots, corruption and greed, as a complex series of murders present the opera-loving, wine connoisseur detective with his most challenging case yet. When grief-stricken Kubu defies orders and sets out on the killers’ trail, startling and chilling links emerge, spanning the globe and setting a sequence of shocking events in motion.

Will Kubu catch the killers in time … and find justice for his father?

This is actually the fifth book about 'Kubu' (the nickname means 'Hippopotamus' and is a reference to the detective's size - and a possible allusion to his love of good food). However that doesn't show - I hadn't read any of the others, but within a few pages, I was immersed in his Botswana, familiar with his colleagues and family - and mourning for his loss of his father, stabbed in the street.

I don't know whether or not Wilmon featured much in the earlier books: it doesn't really matter, Michael Stanley (the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip) still convoys the old man's character - a hard working practitioner of traditional medicines, a loving if strict father and good husband. Kubu's grief drives this book - first as he tries to find ways to get onto the case despite his boss's insistence that he stay away and then, more subtly, as he makes connections between his father's death and other troubling events and learns a bit of family history

It's a deftly written story, presenting the reader with a puzzle - how does everything join up? - that's all the trickier to a Westerner who doesn't know quite what may be possible or indeed expected in modern Botswana. But we are perfectly able to cope with the unfamiliarity of a Scandi winter, and it's exciting learning just what is going on amidst the heat and dust (sorry for the cliche!) of Botswana. (And I would point out Sherlock Holme's remark to the effect that worse crimes are committed in the pleasant countryside than in the worst London alleyways).

In explaining what's going on, the authors give a vivid picture of modern Botswana. There is politics here - domestic and international - as well as a 21st century mineral grab, all played out in a poor country which they show to be a nation which is nevertheless proud of its traditions and achievements (not least in policing).

There are some great, well released characters here, and also some great moments and scenes, most notably Kubu's trip to New York to attend a conference which confronts him both with a degree of cold he never believed existed and with meals large enough to challenge even him. That perhaps makes him sound like a bit like a future of fun but nothing could be further from the truth: Kubu is a shrewd and experienced detective, supported by a skilled team. Collectively, once they get the measure of the threat confronting them, they are more than capable of working out what's happening.

The question is, though, whether the forces that are now moving can be stopped. it isn't just a matter of a single death: the fate of whole communities hangs in the balance...

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