Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu by Michael Stanley

Title: The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu
Author: Michael Stanley
ISBN: 9780061252495, Harper Collins, 2009
Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural, #2 Detective Kubu mystery
Rating: A+

First Line: The farewells had been said many years ago, so Goodluck hugged his old comrade and left without a word.

Not too long ago, I read a book called A Carrion Death and fell in love with a country and a character. The country is Botswana. The character is a policeman with the unlikely nickname of Kubu ("hippopotamus"). When I discovered that the second book in this mystery series was about to be published, I succumbed to temptation and pre-ordered it. I'm glad I did. The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu fulfills the promise contained in the first book.

This time around, two men are found murdered in a bush camp on the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana. Detective David "Kubu" Bengu is assigned to the case. One victim is a tourist from South Africa. The other is Goodluck Tinubu, a Zimbabwean who had been teaching in Botswana for several years. A third person, thought to be a dissident wanted in Zimbabwe, has disappeared. The local police seem unable or unwilling to provide much help, so Detective Kubu must rely on his own instincts to track down the killers. Almost from the beginning he realizes that everyone involved has something to hide and that unraveling each clue will take all his skill.

The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu delves a bit more into the political side of life in Botswana: life in remote villages far off the grid, how the police of Botswana and South Africa try to work together, and how tense life can be when a border is shared with a country like Zimbabwe. The setting of the Okavango Delta is wonderful, especially for someone like me who's grown up watching dozens of National Geographic specials.

Political-- and wild-- animals aside, the true strengths of this book can be found in the labyrinthine plot where no one is who he seems to be and no one's motivations are clear-- and in the excellent characterizations. In fact this is one of the few series where I enjoy the main character's home life and family as much as I do the mystery.

Kubu, his co-workers and his extended family are delineated with such care, respect and gentle humor that I wouldn't be at all surprised to discover that each one of them is a real person. Even if they are not, they became real in my mind as the pages turned. Reading these books is to learn of traditional family life in Botswana, and to learn that co-workers around the world love to joke with each other:

"Kubu, I've got to go. See if you can arrange things for the rest of the day so that you don't drown any of my detectives, don't start a war with Namibia, and don't release a horde of murderers into the community. Do you think you can handle that?"

In only the second book of what I hope is a very long series, I savored a complex plot, a setting that can literally sink its teeth into a reader, and cast of characters that live and breathe on the page. All of this is written by two talented men who aren't afraid to shake things up and let me know that I should not take Detective Kubu or any of the others for granted. Life is short. Life is uncertain. Bad things can happen to good people. I am most definitely looking forward to the third book in this series!

I know that some of you probably saw "Botswana" and immediately thought of the series written by Alexander McCall Smith. You're probably wondering how Detective Kubu "stacks up" against Precious Ramotswe. I've read Smith's series. Both are wonderful at portraying Botswana for the armchair travelers amongst us who like to be taken to faraway lands. However, for a true mystery lover like me, Detective Kubu definitely has the edge. Michael Stanley's series is one not to be missed.

Note: The book contains maps, a cast of characters (with the pronunciations of each name) and a glossary, all of which can be very helpful for readers. I scanned the maps and the cast of characters before I began reading and seldom referred to them again, so don't be afraid that you're going to wear those pages out once you've started reading the book!


  1. This is in my pile to read/review. I hope I enjoy it as much as you did!

  2. That sounds fabulous! I've enjoyed Alexander McCall Smith's series, but have grown a little tired of it.

  3. This is also in my pile to read/review. I'm glad you liked it! I haven't had a chance to read the first one yet, and I probably won't before reading this one.

  4. I haven't heard of this series, but it sounds like one I'd like. I love mysteries with complex plots. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  5. I have not done anything with this series. Sounds interesting.

  6. I take your point in your note, Cathy. I really love maps, especially old maps. But I don't like to be thrown out of a story to have to consult one so i can understand the plot.

  7. You've been reading some A books lately and I like reading the A reviews. (Not that I don't appreciate the B's and C's too.) I don't recall number 1 in this series but I like that it is set in Botswana. I do like the Smith series so maybe I need to give these a try.

  8. I've had my eye on this one and your review has convinced me to order it and enjoy. You might also check out Wife of the the Gods by Kwei Quartey coming out next month. It's set in Ghana and is excellent.

  9. So do I, Sheri!

    Kathy--I have to admit that I read the first two books in McCall's series, and that was it. Just no interest in going further.

    Jenn--Both books stand alone quite well, so you won't feel as if you're missing something by not reading the first in the series.

    Anna--You're welcome!

    Sheila--It is very interesting!

    Susan--I don't care for books where I'm constantly being forced to refer to maps or character lists, etc. It really does throw a person out of the story.

    Margot--It's an excellent series so far, and the authors have let me know that they're working on #3 right now. I hope you get a chance to read them. Oh...I'm enjoying this spell of "A" books! :)

  10. Tina---Oooooh! Thanks for the tip on Wife of the Gods!

  11. I've got this one sitting downstairs in my library bag. I had been debating whether or not to read it (because I wasn't sure if I'd be able to get it read in time before it's due). It sounds really good though, so I may move it up in my stack. Great review!

  12. This does look good and I love books set in Africa, but I wasn't a fan of the Ladies Detective Agency. It was too light and fluffy for me. Does this series have a bit more depth and a lot less comedy?

  13. Alyce--Thank you!

    Jackie--I am not a fan of Precious either. She's too...precious. ;) These books by Michael Stanley have humor, but they also have a lot more depth.


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