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The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu: A Detective Kubu Mystery

Review

The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu: A Detective Kubu Mystery

The Detective Kubu mysteries have become an addiction for me,
even though the series is still in its infancy. If A CARRION DEATH,
the first book, whetted the appetite for a great mystery of at
least equal quality, then THE SECOND DEATH OF GOODLUCK TINUBU meets
and surpasses it.

Detective Kubu is David Bengu; “Kubu” is also a
nickname in Bengu’s home nation of Botswana for a
hippopotamus, which Bengu resembles physically and emotionally.
Michael Stanley, the creator of this series, is the collective name
for the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Their
collaboration is a seamless one; while the setting, Southern
Africa, is exotic, within the space of a few pages, somehow team
Stanley makes it seem a familiar, almost comfortable place, like a
country home that is too far away to visit as often as one might
like. Maybe that analogy is inaccurate. THE SECOND DEATH, for
example, describes a creature known as a ladder spider that is
indigenous to northern Botswana; I wouldn’t want to be within
three continents of such a thing. On the whole, however, the
settings and the characters who populate these novels are first
rate.

There is much to love here, particularly about Detective Kubu
himself. As with his namesake, he is a huge man of immense
appetite, whose latest diet forces him to regretfully decline a
third helping of dessert. He is also an excellent police detective,
good at taking nagging stray threads and pulling at some, following
others, and figuring out what is going on. Or, as Kubu puts it,
holding up the jigsaw puzzle pieces and turning them this way and
that until he can put them into the big picture. Kind and attentive
to his wife, gracious and respectful to his parents, Kubu is the
type of individual who you would not only want as a friend, but
also as a relative. He has a hard-to-please but very savvy boss who
knows when to reign him in and when to give him his lead, and just
enough frustrations to keep things interesting at all times.

I could prattle on. The bottom line, however, is that THE SECOND
DEATH, like its predecessor, is exceptionally well written. It is
so much so in fact that halfway through it I found I was enjoying
the narrative even more than the mystery it was presenting. To put
it another way, and to paraphrase a favorite limerick, I cared more
about the book’s voice than I did about who had done what,
and to whom.

Which brings us to the plot. While Goodluck Tinubu is the name
that makes it into the title of this wonderful work, he is but one
of two bodies discovered viciously murdered at a bush camp in
Northern Botswana. Kubu is called in to wrap up this nasty turn of
events, and quickly, given that a conference of African leaders is
about to get underway in Botswana and the local authorities
don’t want the place to appear to be a caldron of violence.
The case looks open and shut, at least initially. Another guest of
the camp departed ahead of schedule, after the murders took place
but before the victims were discovered. Find him and you find the
murderer; Kubu should have things wrapped up before lunch.

But it’s not quite that simple. It develops that Tinubu
was reported to have been dead some 30 years previously, a victim
of the Rhodesian civil war. Even more intriguing is that there
appears to be a tie between himself and the missing guest. When the
other victim is revealed to be a South African policeman, it
becomes clear that the circumstances of Tinubu’s murder are
much more complicated than anyone previously suspected. Throw in a
violent drug gang, a threat to Kubu’s family, an extremely
eccentric and entertaining camp cook, and a very knowledgeable
purveyor of ladies’ accessories, and you have one of the best
mystery novels of the year.

All of the above would be more than enough to draw the
discriminating mystery fan. But there is more. Stanley,
demonstrating a courteous awareness of the fact that he is writing
of names, places and things that are unfamiliar to the majority of
his audience, includes maps, a glossary and, best of all, a cast of
characters for easy reference. These appetizers make THE SECOND
DEATH OF GOODLUCK TINUBU a complete and glorious feast for the mind
and eyes.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011

The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu: A Detective Kubu Mystery
by Michael Stanley

  • Publication Date: June 1, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0061252492
  • ISBN-13: 9780061252495