The body appeared to have been deliberately dumped naked near the waterhole. Or so it seemed from the remains the hyenas had left.
Dales Camp, the bush resort near where the body had been found on the verge of the Central Kalahari Game Reserves in Botswana, is 4 hours drive from the capital Gaborone. Not that Assistant Superintendent "Kibu" Bengu of the Botswana police minds the drive. It gives him the chance to sing opera.
At the crime scene Kubu meets the conservationist who discovered the body and finds trapped in the bushes a cash slip for petrol. This is the beginning of the tenuous thread the subsequent investigation hangs on. It is obvious that the murderers have tried to hide the identity of the body, but they reckoned without Kubu Bengu.
As the blurb says A CARRION DEATH is set in a world of poachers, witch doctors, diamond-smuggling, and corruption. For all that, this is a complex and many-threaded tale. It is an impressive debut novel structured in a way that gets the reader thinking. For example, the events are layered in time rather than sequential, so you are forced to take notice of chapter headings. There are little puzzles to solve and as one is resolved, the next presents. It is also populated with engaging characters such as Kubu Bengu, his wife Joy, and his boss Mabake. We've become a little used to detectives who have to struggle against their superiors, which makes Mabake, who wants to think the best of Kubu, a refreshing character. Contrasting with these characters are those who are truly evil, and then there are those who are the dupes, caught in the middle. There are references too to contemporary political issues such as Botswana trying to shake off semi-colonial controls through legacy companies, and blood diamonds.
A CARRION DEATH is among my top reads for 2010. My rating 5.0.
Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip.
Both are retired professors who have worked in academia and business. Sears is a mathematician, specializing in geological remote sensing. Trollip is an educational psychologist, specializing in the application of computers to teaching and learning, and a pilot. They were both born in South Africa.
They have been on a number of flying safaris to Botswana and Zimbabwe, where it was always exciting to buzz a dirt airstrip to shoo the elephants off. They have had many adventures on these trips including tracking lions at night, fighting bush fires on the Savuti plains in northern Botswana, being charged by an elephant, and having their plane’s door pop open over the Kalahari, scattering navigation maps over the desert.. These trips have fed their love both for the bush, and for Botswana.
It was on one of these trips that the idea surfaced for a novel set in Botswana.
A CARRION DEATH is their first novel.
If you'd like to listen
A Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2008
A Library Journal Best Audiobook of 2008
Sites to enjoy:
- Michael Stanley introduces Detective Kubu
- Review on EuroCrime by Maxine Clarke
- Mack's review on Mack Captures Crime
- Sunnie interviews the authors
And now I find that both authors have a new book for me to read. McCall Smith's latest is THE DOUBLE COMFORT SAFARI while Michael Stanley's is THE SECOND DEATH OF GOODLUCK TINUBU (USA) or A DEADLY TRADE (elsewhere).
I have used A CARRION DEATH as part of the 2010 Global Reading Challenge.