DYING TO LIVE
by Michael Stanley
When the body of a Bushman is discovered near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the death is written off as an accident. But all is not as it seems. An autopsy reveals that, although he's clearly very old, his internal organs are puzzlingly young. What's more, an old bullet is lodged in one of his muscles... but where is the entry wound? When the body is stolen from the morgue and a local witch doctor is reported missing, Detective 'Kubu' Bengu gets involved. But did the witch doctor take the body to use as part of a ritual? Or was it the American anthropologist who'd befriended the old Bushman? As Kubu and his brilliant young colleague, Detective Samantha Khama, follow the twisting trail through a confusion of rhino-horn smugglers, foreign gangsters and drugs manufacturers, the wider and more dangerous the case seems to grow. A fresh, new slice of 'Sunshine Noir', Dying to Live is a classic tale of greed, corruption and ruthless thuggery, set in one of the world's most beautiful landscapes, and featuring one of crime fiction's most endearing and humane heroes.
This is the sixth mystery in the excellent Detective Kubu series but don’t worry if it’s your first. It’s not only a stand alone story, the characters are listed with a brief bio up front, and there’s even a glossary at the back to help with the local terms.
A white haired bushman is discovered dead at the side of the road, near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. He looks old enough to have died of natural causes, perhaps a fall, but foul play is suspected so the body is autopsied. Pathologist Ian MacGregor confirms the cause of death as a broken neck, but there’s a nagging concern. The man is clearly elderly but his internal organs seem younger and, unlike with a tree, you can’t count the rings. There's a further find inside the man's stomach where an old German WWI bullet is discovered, and yet there's no entry wound. Teeth are useful in revealing ID and in helping to age victims so a couple of teeth are removed for further analysis.
As this case is an interesting one, Assistant Superintendent David “Kubu” Bengu of Botswana CID is called. His deliberations are not helped by the bushman’s corpse being stolen from the morgue. Thankfully those two teeth had already been removed and may provide clues.
Kubu (meaning hippopotamus) is a large man, a cookie eater who is making some attempts at healthy eating. On a personal front he is faced with a bigger challenge though after one of his adopted daughters, Nono, is rushed into hospital. This provides some personal development.
Witch doctors and the unethical use of muti are themes of the series, and a witch doctor is involved in this story. He goes missing and later provides a second case for investigation, Samantha leading the trail. She’s the only female detective and a recurring character.
There seems no connection with the novel’s different cases, other than greed, but following the money is always a good place to start. And by the end, as you might expect, it all comes together with a superbly constructed conclusion.
It’s a well told story, thoroughly well researched, believable, and entertaining. Oh, and a list of crimes - murder, torture, kidnap, smuggling – to keep Kubu and Samantha busy.
About Michael Stanley:
MICHAEL STANLEY is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Sears was born in Johannesburg, grew up in Cape Town and Nairobi, and teaches at the University of the Witwatersrand. Trollip was also born in Johannesburg and has been on the faculty of the universities of Illinois, Minnesota, and North Dakota, and at Capella University. He divides his time between Knysna, South Africa, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Michael is the author of the Detective Kubu Mystery series, including A Death in the Family.