Detective "Kubu" Bengu, assistant Superintendent in the Botswana CID, is called to a nasty murder scene in the country's most northern part: two men dead and one has disappeared. One of those killed, popular teacher Goodluck Tinubu, appears to have been the victim of a revenge killing. Kubu (meaning hippo in Setswana) and his local CID colleague, Detective Sergeant Joseph "Tatwa" (giraffe) Mooka, have a major puzzle on their hands. This second "Kubu" crime investigation novel by South African writing team Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip is even richer and more intricate than the well-received first, A Carrion Death: Introducing Detective Kubu. Set against the beautiful landscapes of normally peaceful Botswana, hefty problems bubble under the surface, however: cross-border drug trade, regional political tensions with Zimbabwe, and long lingering violent conflicts from across the borders.
Central to the investigation is the remote Jackalberry tourist camp, run by two white ex-Rhodesians. Located on a peninsula, close to the borders with Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, it is reachable only by either boat or by wading through the swamps, inhabited by hippos and crocs. It seems to attract a motley group of staff and visitors. Most appear to have something to hide from the detectives. Tinubu, for example, it turns out, was already killed once before: in the Rhodesian civil war some thirty years earlier. When searching for the disappeared man, the trace leads to Zimbabwe also. Kubu, usually the pondering meticulous gentle giant who never rushes and hardly ever misses out on a good meal, is pressured hard by his superiors for quick results. When his own family is threatened, he loses his cool and shows his hippo strength, yet maintains his lateral thinking skills: his sometimes unusual hunches and thorough analyses comfortably convince the reader and eventually also director Jacob Mabaku. Time becomes of the essence, and bold steps are required to cut through to the core of the crimes.
While fans of McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Box Set: "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" "Tears of the Giraffe" "Morality for Beautiful Girls" will easily see parallels in the description of the natural environment and some Batswana character traits, the pace of events here moves much faster and the story threads are complex and multi-track. The various settings are effectively used for the story's dramatic flow. The authors have also expanded on describing personal circumstances and the wider social settings, thus creating a rounder portrait of the characters' life in Botswana. The different action strands come convincingly together. Above all, though, Detective Kubu is captivating and a highly engaging character to observe in action. [Friederike Knabe]