17 April 2011

Goodluck and bad luck

The early returns from Nigeria point to the reelection of President Goodluck Jonathan. It seems a good time to write about Goodluck Tinubu.

Tinubu is the title character (and victim) in Michael Stanley's book The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu. After reading A Carrion Death at the beginning of last year, I was looking forward to reading another book by the writing team who go by the name of Michael Stanley. But in the blur of daily life, I forgot.

Then blogging friend Gary Sankary reminded me that there was another "Detective Kubu mystery." So, I looked for it on my next trip to the Northfield Library.

The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu is a big book. It has about twice as many pages (460+) as most of the mysteries I read. Then again, there are two authors. The main character is Botswanan detective David "Kubu" Bengu. (Kubu is the name for hippo. The detective resembles a hippo in girth as well as in determination.)

If you're not familiar with a bit African history, you'll have to learn about apartheid, Southern Rhodesia, Zimbabwe and its war for independence, and the proximity of Botswana to South African and Zimbabwe. It also helps to know a little about the terrors of present-day Zimbabwe.

You see, George Tinubu got his name Goodluck when he survived a murder during the hostilities between the white settler government of Southern Rhodesia and the independence fighters. However, the authorities listed him as dead because they found his identity papers with his fingerprints on them. Goodluck Tinubu went on to become a school teacher in Botswana. Many years later, he was killed in a tourist camp in northern Botswana near the border with Zimbabwe.

The local police don't seem able to make much headway in solving the murder because there are so many likely suspects and so many possible motives. So Detective Kubu Bengu is called in from the capital.

The story is set up well in the opening chapters, and it's well-told through conversations and bits of inner dialogue. I enjoyed reading the first half of the book and was thoroughly immersed in the story.

Then the book got better! The story telling never seemed to falter. Michael and Stanley write short snappy chapters and manage the information flow very well. There are partial escapes from the hunt for a murderer or murderers when Kubu gets home for weekends with his wife and his parents. But his wife gets more involved than expected when she's kidnapped -- seemingly by Tinubu's murderers who think Kubu has a briefcase full of cash that's gone missing.

Kubu ventures across the border into Zimbabwe to interview Goodluck Tinubu's mentor, the headmaster of a closed Zimbabwean school. He almost catches one of the bad guys by draining most of the gas from an outboard motor. He figures out that the past had caught up with several of the people at the tourist camp where Tinubu was killed.

But all that's told in a great story. And, if you need your stereotypes of Africa shattered, there's no better place for that to happen in a story set in Botswana.

I recommend it for many reasons.

Have you read The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu? Write and tell this little bit of the world what you thought of it.

1 comment:

Ken Wedding said...

Gary Sankary added:
"Just wrapped up The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu by Michael Stanley. It's the second book in the Detective Kubu series, these books are becoming some of my favorites, excellent mystery's set in Botswana of all places. Highly recommended."