MURDER IN EXOTIC PLACES, continued.
Last month, I wrote about books set on the Indian subcontinent. How about books set in Africa? I have never been to Africa, but I’ve read Paul Theroux’s Dark Star Safari. The subtitle is “Overland from Cairo to Capetown.” Think about that for a minute. Not a journey for the faint of heart! But not one you have to make, because you can read a blow-by-blow that offers all the wit and keen observation of the most astute, acerbic and entertaining travel writer ever.
I loved that book, but I must have murder, and fortunately Africa is the setting for several outstanding detective series. Among the very best are Malla Nunn’s Emmanuel Cooper
novels, set in South Africa during the 1950s, at the height of the Apartheid era. Malla Nunn is from Swaziland in South Africa and now resides in Australia.
All four books in her series are excellent. I started with the third, Blessed are the Dead, in which a young Zulu woman is murdered in the Drakensberg Mountains. This is a dark, gritty and well-plotted murder mystery with a fascinating geographic, social and political setting. I highly recommend it. Her latest is Present Darkness.
If you prefer light and delightful to dark and gritty, The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party is a wonderful read. It’s the twelfth book in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith. The books are set in Gabarone, Botswana, and the main character is the wise and charming Precious Ramotswe.
You may already know about these books, since they have been wildly popular for more than ten years now, but did you know that there are fifteen books in the series? Here’s a checklist, so you can be sure you’ve read them all. The BBC/HBO television series captures the books perfectly, by the way; Season 1 is available on Amazon Video.
Less well known, and also set in Botswana, are the Kubu mysteries, by Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip, who publish as Michael Stanley. Both men were born in Africa and have traveled extensively there all their lives. Their lovable detective is the portly David Benga, affectionately known as Kubu (the Setsama word for hippopotamus). The series achieves a perfect balance between light humor and serious crime. A Carrion Death, their debut, is a good place to start. There are four Kubu books altogether, plus a cook book.
But actually, if it’s African food you crave (and if you have ever tried African food, you surely crave it), try Jessica Harris’s Africa Cookbook, Tastes of a Continent. Babotie! Curried cabbage! Pigeon Pie! It takes all day to cook, and a village to eat, such a dinner!
MM Kaye, you may recall from the first post in this series (Murder in Exotic Places) was born in India and lived there much of her life. After India’s independence, she followed her husband, a Major-General in the British Army, to Africa. There she wrote two more romantic suspense novels: Death in Kenya and Death in Zanzibar.
I stumbled on MM Kaye’s mysteries when researching my own book, Lay Death at Her Door. My main character, Kate Cranbrook, is from Kenya, daughter of American ex-patriates, and events from her teenage years in Nairobi reach across decades of her life to haunt her.
Finally, I have just discovered a series of mysteries by Kwei Quartey. I’m currently enjoying Death at the Voyager Hotel, set in Ghana. I’m close to the end, and I don’t know whodunnit yet!
Next: Mysteries set in the Far East.