14 August 2013

Review: DEADLY HARVEST, Michael Stanley

Synopsis (Harper Collins)

Girls are disappearing in Botswana. The rumor is they're being harvested for muti, a witch doctor's potion traditionally derived from plants and animals—and which, some believe, can be made more potent by adding human remains. Detective David "Kubu" Bengu joins the investigation with the police force's newest detective—and only woman—Samantha Khama, for whom the case is personal.

Soon one girl's father, convinced that his daughter's death is linked to the recent popularity of a political candidate, takes the law into his own hands. After the father flees, what Kubu and Samantha find in the politician's home confirms their worst fears: muti containing human DNA is real.

Now Kubu and Samantha are thrust into a harrowing race to stop a serial killer or killers—and those who would pay for their special, lethal muti.

My Take

If your reading experience of Botswana is Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 LADIES DETECTIVE AGENCY with the unforgettable Precious Ramotswe, then you'll find the Kubu series very different in flavour, not quite so cozy. Although unmistakably we are in the same place, with a similar mixture of new Western and traditional African cultures. Michael Stanley's style is deceptively simplistic, but underlying all is two pairs of keen eyes (see my note below about the author) and an awareness of the political and cultural challenges being faced by modern Botswana.

In a note the authors comment
    Although this is a work of fiction, it is, as were our three previous books, set on a background of reality.
And then they go on to talk about the belief in muti which underpins the murders and crimes in DEADLY HARVEST. Organs are being harvested from live human victims, not for the trade in illegal transplants which other books like Peter James' DEAD TOMORROW have highlighted, but for the belief in their magical powers.

The well established central character in this series Detective David "Kubu" Bengu is joined in DEADLY HARVEST by a female officer Samantha Khama. Kubu is not used to working with a woman and for a while he tries to put her on the back seat, but then he comes to realise that they make a very good team.

Kubu's boss Mabaku values the intuitive dimension that Kubu brings to policing. Most of the time Kubu's hunches are right and only rarely does the more cautious and politically minded Mabaku refuse to follow Kubu's plan of action.

I appreciated the cast of characters listed at the front of the novel and the glossary in the final pages.

So, my verdict - an excellent read. If you are new to Michael Stanley, start at the beginning,  A CARRION DEATH, and follow Kubu's career.

My rating: 5.0

I've also reviewed

I've realised today that I haven't yet read A DEADLY TRADE (#2) and I've also found a set of short stories, DETECTIVE KUBU INVESTIGATES on Amazon Kindle

About the author
The author with their Barry Award

Michael Stanley is the writing team of Johannesburg natives Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Sears lives in Johannesburg and teaches part-time at the University of Witwatersrand. Trollip was on the faculty at the universities of Illinois, Minnesota, and North Dakota, and at Capella University. A full-time writer, he divides his time between...

In 2012 Michael Stanley won a Barry Award for DEATH OF THE MANTIS

Current books - see author's website
1. A Carrion Death (2008)
2. A Deadly Trade (2009)
     aka The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu
3. The Death of the Mantis (2011)
4. Deadly Harvest (2013)

1 comment:

Ryan said...

I really enjoy this series, though I've only read this and the previous book.


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