09 January 2014

Complications in Kenya

It seemed to take forever to reread Sirens of Titan. Then I read at seeming light speed through Margaret Coel and Dana Stabenow's books. I think familiarity with the styles and characters of those authors made reading their new books less daunting. (Although Stabenow threw a curve at the end.)

So, I wasn't surprised that reading a first novel was slower going than the previous two.

Richard Compton was born in London, UK and lives in Nairobi, Kenya and his first novel is set there at the time of the 2007 elections.

Kenya is one of three African countries I know enough about to be utterly mistaken about any evaluation I might make. I first got interesting in Nigeria when I met a Nigerian classmate as a first year college student way back in 1963. I've taught about Nigeria off and on since 1970. I studied and taught about Kenya back in the '70s as well and taught about South Africa in the last years of Apartheid. (I have a ballot from the 1994 South African election on the wall above my computer.)

So Richard Compton told a fascinating story that took me back to what little I knew about Kenya and its capital city. The book was published in the USA as Hour of the Red God. It also shows up in the UK at Amazon.co.uk as The Honey Guide.

Compton's book is absolutely within the mainstream of Western detective fiction. And the main character might be a former Massai warrior dragged into the big city, but he's as much a British or American law officer as any in Anglo-American murder mysteries.

The story is also in that mainstream, even though the names, adjectives, adverbs, and even some of the verbs are Kenyan. That's one reason the beginning chapters were slow going for me.

There's murdered prostitute, a possibly stolen baby, a rich evengeical pastor, an ambitious and educated pastor's wife, various political high flyers, and of course a detective who doesn't always follow orders and his skeptical assistant. All of this takes place at the time of violence and tumult that accompanied the presidential election. (That's the same link as the one above.)

Compton weaves a fine tale. It's at least as complex as Dana Stabenow's Alaskan tale and more convoluted than Margaret Coel's Wyoming replay of the Custer battle. I really liked it.

And, I suspect he'll write another. His days as a BBC reporter are probably over. Compton's name goes on my list of books and authors.

Have you read Hour of the Red God or The Honey Guide? What did you think of it? Write and tell this little bit of the world.

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