by Michael Stanley
Deadly Harvest: A Detective Kubu Mystery (Detective Kubu, #4) by Michael Stanley
Deadly Harvest, in Michael Stanley’s beloved Detective Kubu series, tracks a series of murders and a mysterious witch-doctor whose nefarious potions might hold the key to a web of missing persons.
When young girls start to go missing, Samantha, a new detective on the Botswana police force suspects that muti, a traditional African medicine, is the reason. She and Detective David “Kubu” Bengu race to stop a serial killer, all as the father of one of the victims threatens to take matters into his own hands.
Weaving together a thrilling mystery with a fascinating look at modern-day Africa, Deadly Harvest is filled with elements suspense and plot twists that will keep you captivated until the very end.
At times scary, this is a well-written, fast-paced mystery, rooted in Botswana, providing an unusual setting for Kabu, an untypical sleuth.
A young girl, out shopping for her aunt, accepts the offer of a lift to the top of the hill. She’s not seen again but, when her sister registers concern, the police seem dismissive. The victim’s steps must be retraced independently. Then another girl falls foul of the same crime, setting the mystery: why are kids getting in a car with this dangerous person? And what’s happening to them?
This time it’s the missing girl’s father, Witness, that’s frantic with worry. Attempts at finding his daughter see Witness spiralling into chaos, drinking, and driving himself mad with rage, a state that has disastrous consequences after he visits a witch doctor. This case, just one thread in the novel’s fabric, provides many gripping chapters.
The police are supposed to work collectively with other stations in regard to these missing girls but they, along with the country, seem to be found wanting. All apart from the crime fighters at the heart of the story. Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Bengu is a big man; he likes his food, especially cookies. Unlike most sleuths he’s married, happily, with a young daughter. Where he is a more typical cop is in his dedication to the job. Samantha Khama (a new recruit to the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department) joins Kabu. Her attitude and personality contrasts with his making for interesting results.
Muti, the medicine from a traditional African healer, is a practice that contains some shocking elements and provides some uncomfortable reading. Kubu and Samantha don’t believe in the powers of the witch doctors and their promises of promoting health and prosperity – but many locals do. So much so, that the claims of personal power is enough for some to turn to horrendous crimes for their medicine. Another awful cultural issue featured here is the vulnerability of albinos, also linked to witch doctors’ medicine. Together with the terrible impact of AIDS and growing problem of missing children, Botswanan society provides many challenges for the characters of this book. But, like everywhere, corruption and politics also play a crucial role in this story.
There’s evil at the bottom of these crimes. Perhaps even a masterful Witch Doctor with powers of invisibility! The violence is not gratuitous in its description. Grisly, yes, but the tone never crosses into the horror genre. Written by a team of two, whose knowledge of Southern Africa comes across well, this story feels authentic and grips like glue.
About Michael Stanley:
Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. Stanley was an educational psychologist, specialising in the application of computers to teaching and learning, and is a pilot. Michael specialises in image processing and remote sensing, and teaches at the University of the Witwatersrand. On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective 'Kubu' Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers' award.