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by Michael Stanley
HarperCollins, April 2008
480 pages
ISBN: 0061252409

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The kubu or hippopotamus is big and black and seemingly placid, but don't cross him. When David Bengu, the son of a poor farmer, was at a private preparatory school in Botswana, he was playfully given the nickname of Kubu by a classmate, Angus Hofmeyr, the son of a wealthy white settler and captain of the cricket team. Kubu is now a detective in the Botswana Criminal Investigation Division, and the nickname has stuck.

The body of a white man is found in a remote area of the Kalahari by a ranger and a researcher. Kubu is assigned to the case and drives the four hours from Gaborone to the site of the possible murder. The body is naked, scavenged by hyenas and other animals and insects, with no vehicle nearby.

The story then goes back a couple of months to the home of the CEO of BCMC, a large corporation that started as an agricultural concern, but now also has diamond mines in Botswana, near the Kalahari. Cecil Hofmeyr is trying to get DeBeers interested in a partnership, but the yield from their mine is too small for the diamond conglomerate to bother with. His niece and nephew, Dianna and Angus, are visiting. After the death of Cecil's brother, the children were taken back to England, but they still hold a portion of the corporation. Dianna, with an MBA, is trying to get her uncle to give her an executive position with the firm. She and her brother will inherit a majority shareholding when they turn thirty in a few days.

'Michael Stanley' is actually two men, Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. The authors' love for the country is vividly portrayed in their descriptions of the people and landscape, a bit of commentary about the Bushmen, the real natives of the country once called Bechuanaland, and the political situation in most of the neighbors of this landlocked country.

This is a first novel and an excellent one. Kubu is a real character, in all senses of the word. He lives up to his namesake, doggedly following all clues until he finally solves the crime, while enjoying a traditional family life. It is an excellent start to a proposed series.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, May 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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