DEADLY HARVEST - Michael Stanley
Some of the very best crime fiction explores issues that are relevant to the society in which it is set. Michael Stanley's Kubu series, set in Botswana seems to have really hit its straps in that department in the last couple of books, with DEADLY HARVEST reaching a particular high. The fourth book in the Detective Kubu series, here the author(s) are exploring the disappearance of a number of young girls. The suspicion is that these girls are the victims of a powerful, unknown witchdoctor, looking for victims to incorporate in his muti, or traditional African healing, potions.
This is, needless to say a rather confrontational storyline. Built as it is into questions of the powerful and powerless in society, and the ravages of AIDS and HIV within families throughout Botswana.
The confrontational is handled well though. The style of these stories is slightly mannered (for want of a better description), there's a tone in the writing that fits with the style and personality of Detective Kubu. Measured, careful, considered and slightly formal, Kubu is an interesting man with a balanced life. The storytelling itself is also nicely balanced with time in the personal and family life, which doesn't pull focus from the main investigation line. In DEADLY HARVEST the authors have also introduced a new, female investigator in Detective Samantha Khama. A serious foil to Kubu's measured nature, Khama is more driven, impulsive, emotional if you like. Mind you, that doesn't come across as a male versus female thing, rather the senior more experienced policeman and the young gun with things to prove, and a few things to learn.
I must admit I love this series, and DEADLY HARVEST as much as I loved the last book. It's current day, it's got that educational look into real life in a developing nation. It is measured and polite, and somehow feels very very African. If you've not read any of the Kubu series then there's no time like the present. Each book would work on its own if you need to dive in, but as is always the case with these series, if you can start at the beginning of Kubu's journey and work through it with him, then so much the better.
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.