Second outing for Botswanan detective

2009-06-24 00:00

BOOK REVIEW

A Deadly Trade

Michael Stanley

Headline

MICHAEL Stanley (really co-authors Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip), encouraged by the reception of the first Detective Kubu Bengu outing, A Carrion Death, here present us with an energetic second novel, again set in Botswana.

In some ways it’s better than the first, getting about a lot and weaving in such things as the drug trade and the legacy of the conflict in the former Rhodesia. Much of the action takes place at a northern tourist camp, where the mutilated body of Goodluck Tinubu is found, the death at first appearing to be a revenge killing.

But from the victim’s fingerprints Kubu (“hippo”, descriptive of the generous girth consequent upon the consumption of good food and the imbibition of “steelworks”) discovers to his surprise that Tinubu is ­already dead, slain in the Rhodesian war 30 years ago.

And he’s not the only one to be murdered at the camp, where guests are being picked off one by one, and time to stop the killer is running out.

Kubu has to work at top speed, trying to winkle the truth out of a lot of colourful and complex characters, most of whom seem to have secrets to hide.

Excellent ingredients for a solid detection in a setting clearly well-known to the authors and much loved. The trouble is that they try to do too much, spinning the yarn out to trade-paperback-length by padding it up with extraneous people and things — especially a lot of ickily coy stuff about Kubu’s family life (one’s glad he has a nice wife and dear old parents, but that’s as far as it should go), and so much to-ing and fro-ing and general bittiness that the reader’s head spins. I got bored and ended up skimming the last few chapters, having ceased to care about who did what to whom. Pity.

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