8 September 2012

Review: TRUE MURDER, Yaba Badoe

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 368 KB
  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0099523329
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (February 5, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0031RS3RQ
  • Source: I bought it
 Synopsis (Amazon)

Eleven year old Ajuba has been abandoned at a Devon boarding school by her Ghanaian father.

Haunted by the circumstances of her mother's breakdown and the ghosts of the life she left behind in Ghana, she falls under the spell of new girl Polly Venus and her chaotic, glamorous family.

But all is not what it might seem in the Venus household and Ajuba struggles to make sense of things as they tear each other apart in front of her. One day the girls find what they think are a dead kittens wrapped up in an old coat in the attic of the Venus’ manor house… the bones turn out to be those of a dead baby.

Obsessed with the detectives of the American magazine serial True Murder, the girls set out to find out what happened to the baby. As the summer draws to a close, three tragedies conflate, with catastrophic results.In this assured debut, Yaba Badoe explores a passionate, if unlikely friendship between two troubled adolescent girls and the dysfunctional and ultimately destructive power of love.

My Take

Two pre-teens, Polly and Ajuba, become best friends, and take what seems to me to be a pretty normal interest in detective stories. Ajuba's life has already been touched by tragedy, the attempted suicide of her mother, but Polly claims to have seen a real dead body when her family was living in America.
    In this, her abiding passion, her fascination with violent death, I was a helpless accomplice. The pile of comics I had rummaged through on her first day at school, and continued to mull over whenever the opportunity presented itself, were the source of Polly's hold over us, especially me. She was an enthusiastic subscriber to True Murder, an American monthly made up of features and comic strips of the world's most sensational killings.
When they become best friends, Ajuba begins to be included in Polly's weekends home, and she finds Polly's family magical, and wonders that such love and happiness can exist. But there are hints that the happiness will not last.

One of the really interesting aspects of this book, apart from the various tragic events, is the use of Ghanaian folklore and beliefs, such as a belief in witchcraft, the fear of seeing the images of the dead in a mirror and so on.

The story is told from the p.o.v. of Ajuba at eighteen years of age, looking back to events that occurred seven years earlier. The voice is of a wiser person than the eleven year old to whom the events of the story happened, but nevertheless a person damaged by her encounters with death.

A rather startling read, a very strong debut.

My rating: 4.6

Other reviews: at EuroCrime by Maxine Clarke. Maxine's review last year prompted me to put this book on my reading list.

About the author

Yaba Badoe is a Ghanaian-British documentary filmmaker and journalist. A graduate of King's College Cambridge, she worked as a civil servant in Ghana before becoming a General Trainee with the BBC. She has taught in Spain and Jamaica and is, at present, a Visiting Scholar at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana, where she is completing a documentary film -The Witches of Gambaga.
Her short stories have been published in Critical Quarterly and in African Love Stories: an anthology edited by Ama Ata Aidoo.


Marina Sofia said...

Intriguing - sigh - another one for my reading list, methinks!

Shelleyrae said...

Sounds quite intriguing, thank you for sharing it!

Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out


Blog Widget by LinkWithin