Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Carrion Death by Michael Stanley

Title: A Carrion Death
Author: Michael Stanley
ISBN: 9780061252402/ Harper Collins, 2008
Genre: Police procedural, #1 in the Detective Kubu mystery series
Rating: A

First Line: The hyena moved off when the men shouted.

The half-eaten body of a man is found on a remote game reserve, and Assistant Superintendent David Bengu of the Botswana Police Department is sent to investigate. Known as "Kubu" (Setswanan for "hippopotamus"), Bengu is a large man who's deceptively amiable. The more he searches for the killer, the more clues he finds that all seem to lead back to Botswana's largest company: the Botswana Cattle and Mining Company...and the bodies begin piling up.

Kubu looked out of his window. I've made an idiot of myself to an inspector from the South African Police. I've asked my friend to do something inappropriate that I can't justify in any logical way. And I now have six bodies, or parts of bodies, and missing persons--count them, six--and I don't know why or who or what is going on. But I'm going home to the wife I love, and my dog, and my dinner. I think I'll treat us to a decent Shiraz. So the hell with all of them!

He locked his office and left.

This book is compulsively readable. Kubu has an annoying boss, Mabaku, who likes to hobnob with the rich and shameless, but (wonder of wonders), Mabaku wants everyone held accountable to the same rules, which makes a refreshing change. Kubu is a determined investigator who still insists on regular meals and time spent with a family that he adores. The intricately woven plot moves quickly, but also gives a very strong sense of place:

Now it was a Gaborone suburb with shopping malls and fast-food outlets. All that remained of the past were the baboons that frequently swarmed over the buildings and parking lot. Soon someone would complain loudly enough, and they would be captured and moved, or shot for being a nuisance. You can't stop progress, he mused, but wouldn't it be nice if we managed it better?

As I read and pieced together clues, I also learned about mining diamonds, Bushmen, and traveling in the Kalahari Desert. Those who enjoy Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency stories will find A Carrion Death presents a grittier and sometimes grisly portrait of Botswana, but a portrait that is just as captivating and addictive. Once again I've found a new mystery series to follow. The South African writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip have a winner on their hands.


  1. You beat me to the read, but I have this one somewhere in my house. Now I'm looking forward to it even more.

  2. Sounds perfect. I love mysteries and I love books set in other cultures.

  3. Not exactly my cup of tea but it does still sound like an interesting read!

  4. Beth--At least this time I didn't tempt you to buy another book!

    Kathy--To tell you the truth, I preferred this book to Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency stories.

    Jen--I still wonder how two people can collaborate when writing a book. I collaborated with a friend in writing a short story, and it wasn't easy!

  5. I had this one on my bookmooch wishlist for ages and just this morning a copy became available and I was able to mooch it. Thanks to your review I'm looking forward to the package's arrival even more.

  6. Bernadette--I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


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