Lightseekers, Femi Kayode

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

I've always been a bit of a fan of whydunnit's, and LIGHTSEEKERS intrigued right from the moment it arrived with the line in the blurb "He's an investigative psychologist, an academic more interested in figuring out the why of a crime than actually solving it.".

Dr Philip Taiwo has recently returned from the US to Nigeria, a man who is more than a bit lost. A loving father, and good son, he is a conflicted husband, convinced his wife, who instigated their return to Lagos, is having an affair, based solely on something briefly glimpsed, never discussed with her. His wife, Folake is an academic - they are very much a power couple, used to being outsiders in America, he's surprised to discover he feels the same on their return to Nigeria. He's also an academic, a psychological investigator, who specialises in the difficult and confrontational field of crowd killings, which leads to him being asked by his father's friend, the Managing Director of a large bank, to find the reason behind the murder of his son, one of a notorious crowd killing of 3 young students 2 years ago.

The victim's of the mob public execution have become known as the Okriti 3, their killings proven by plenty of eye-witnesses and lots of harrowing mobile phone footage, but the reason why 3 young students could come to be called out as thieves in the small town adjacent to the university they attended, and why that event lead to such a brutal and public execution has never really been investigated or explained. Persuaded by his own father's pleading, feeling the need to get some thinking space between him and his wife, Taiwo heads to small town Nigeria - Port Harcourt, to meet up with his driver and assistant, Chika Makuochi, encountering a woman on the plane, Salome Briggs, who will later play an important part in ensuring that their investigation continues despite local resistance.

From the moment that Taiwo appears on the page, LIGHTSEEKERS immerses the reader in the people, place and society of Nigeria. From the wealthier, educated environs of Lagos and the sorts of circles that Taiwo's own family moves in, to the dusty, dry streets of a small town where the nearby presence of the University is both a blessing and a curse. Money, drugs, social divides, religious conflicts and the tensions that happen everywhere between locals and transients (in this case the student population), are both universal and specific to the Nigerian experience. Populated by a fascinating cast of characters, author Femi Kayode has deft hands when it comes to balancing action, character development and some very current issues like social media misinformation, lack of faith in institutions and governments, and the impacts of constant violence on people's sense of right and wrong.

It reads like a very authentic and honest depiction of Nigerian life, with the tensions between extreme wealth and extreme poverty, the differences in basic infrastructure provision, and the everyday challenges of living in a country where military roadblocks to collect bribes are a regular occurrence, the terror of civil war still a recent memory, and the discovery of a resource like oil as much of a curse as it is a blessing.

At the centre of all of this is a great central character in Philip Taiwo. An intelligent, insightful man, except when it comes to his own personal life, a good friend, and decent colleague, the sense of threat for he and his assistant Chika Makuochi is ever present and all pervasive throughout this novel. As is the very firm hope that this is a series in the making because LIGHTSEEKERS is a pitch perfect series opener if ever there was one.


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When three young students are brutally murdered in a Nigerian university town, their killings - and their killers - are caught on social media. The world knows who murdered them; what no one knows is why.

As the legal trial begins, investigative psychologist Philip Taiwo is contacted by the father of one of the boys, desperate for some answers to his son's murder. But Philip is an expert in crowd behaviour and violence, not a detective, and after travelling to the sleepy university town that bore witness to the killings, he soon feels dramatically out of his depth.

Review Lightseekers, Femi Kayode
Karen Chisholm
Wednesday, March 17, 2021

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