A Carrion Death

by Michael Stanley

Michael Stanley is the collective name for the writing team of
Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Sears and Trollip have shared a
number of exotic adventures together, with Sears living in
Johannesburg, South Africa and Trollip dividing his time between
Minneapolis, Minnesota and South Africa. They write seamlessly as
one and have crafted an engrossing, even enchanting, mystery.

A CARRION DEATH revolves around Detective Kubu. “Kubu”
is not David Bengu’s given name; rather, it is a nickname
bestowed upon him at school. A “kubu” is the Setswana
term for “hippopotamus,” and Bengu, tipping the scales
at 300 pounds, resembles his namesake, despite the best efforts of
his loving wife, Joy, to put him on a diet. We find out that a
great deal of Kubu’s time is spent eating one meal or
thinking about his next. His appetite for food is matched, though
not exceeded, by his tenaciousness for his work. Kubu, we discover
in due course, is an assistant superintendent of police detectives
for the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. He answers to
Jacob Mabaku, the somewhat dyspeptic director of the department, a
rigid man who nonetheless knows when to occasionally bend.

The book jumps out of a pretty gruesome block right at the
beginning when an ecologist and a camp ranger happen upon the
remains of a human body just as a hyena is finishing off the last
few bites. The location is remote, and some tire tracks lead to and
from the corpse. It has obviously been dumped, but the lack of
clothing or other markings, aside from a couple of oddly broken and
healed bones, make identification difficult. The investigation
calls to Kubu, who in turn slowly but surely finds that the trail
seems to lead back to the Botswana Cattle and Mining Company
(BCMC), which is much more interested in mining --- diamonds, that
is --- than in cattle. Aron Frankental, a geologist at a mine
associated with BCMC, went missing just after he reported what he
believed to be a shortage of diamonds from the mine.

Kubu has a bit of a personal interest in the case because Angus
Hofmeyr, whose family founded BCMC, is scheduled to inherit control
of the company on his 30th birthday. Angus and Kubu were not just
friends at school; indeed, it was Angus who first christened Bengu
and “Kubu.” Angus’s twin sister, Dianna, is to
inherit additional interest in BCMC, but she seems just a tad more
ambitious than that, at least when her attention is not diverted by
her vociferous sexual appetite and her attraction to Jason Ferraz,
who manages the mine where Frankental disappeared. Of course, Cecil
Hofmeyr, who founded BCMC with his brother, Angus and
Dianna’s father, may have an idea or two about hanging on to
his own power as well. He has some secrets of his own, however,
that just may bring him down.

Kubu walks into this swirling intrigue like a hippo into a china
shop, and before long he’s attempting to solve a number of
murders, in addition to the one that fed a starving hyena. He is
good-natured and loves his job, so that he’s thinking about
the murders when his mind isn’t on eating. He looks and, more
importantly, listens, and manages to solve the mystery of the
murdered and abandoned body. Not everything is resolved neatly,
though. Stanley leaves enough loose threads dangling and introduces
enough interesting secondary characters to make it obvious that
this book is to be the first of what hopefully will be a number of
Inspector Kubu novels to come.

A CARRION DEATH is full of exotic locales, compelling characters
and mind-bending mysteries. Even if you should puzzle out what has
taken place, it’s thoroughly entertaining to watch how Kubu
puts things together even as he contemplates that all-important
next feeding. You will be intrigued, and charmed, from page to


Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 26, 2010

A Carrion Death
by Michael Stanley

  • Publication Date: April 1, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0061252409
  • ISBN-13: 9780061252402