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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 3 March 2014
Read it over the weekend and really enjoyed. Richard Crompton cleverly weaves some of the familiar aspects of murder mystery into a credible and gripping story with a Nairobi backdrop. However, the backdrop is well research and observed and gives the whole story its gritty, urban charm and often becomes foreground! Mollel is a very likeable, flawed central character who I hope we will see more from in future instalments. I am not sure why the pavement is a sidewalk but maybe thats just nitpicking. I love the fact there are no lions, elephants or any of the other usual Kenya motifs, but rather a story which works, in a recognisable, authentic Nairobi setting. Sounds easy but its not, and Richard Crompton does it really well. Well worth a read.
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on 6 May 2014
The choice of using a Maasai detective in this book gave so many opportunities to portray some of the tribal differences that are usually unrecognised by outsiders. Nairobi has grown so fast in recent years which the author has managed to convey by showing the divide between the rich and powerful and the lowest street urchin.
I look forward to reading further stories featuring Mollel.
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on 16 February 2013
Police procedural/detective novels are ten-a-penny these days, many of them formulaic and rather predictable in terms of character and plot - putting aside the masters of the genre, that is. Fortunately, Richard Crompton's novel sidesteps falling into the usual traps by virtue of the fact it is set in Nairobi, Kenya.

Anybody who has lived in Nairobi for any length of time, as I have, knows that the police force has limited access to modern policing techniques such as advanced forensics, vast computerized databases, and highly trained specialists. Even the guns look so old and rickety you wonder if they would ever fire - which is desirable since they are often casually wafted barrel-first at your head by the officer sitting next to you on a bumpy bus. As a result, Mr. Crompton's book is a back-to-basics detective novel, in which the main protagonist Mollel - a Masai cop whose wife died in the US Embassy bombing - must track the murderer of a prostitute through old-fashioned legwork.

Complicating the investigation is the violence that erupted following disputed 2007 presidential elections, which sees Mollel following his lead through an increasingly chaotic landscape, and being sucked into corruption and political shenanigans in the process. Mollel himself is a fascinating character. While he has the obligatory demons, his are not the hackneyed issues of failed relationships and alcohol. I won't go into any of them to avoid spoilers.

The novel is meticulously plotted, offering up red herrings aplenty along the way and keeping the reader guessing as to the identity of the killer until late into the book - although perhaps the more astute reader of detective fiction will figure it out sooner.

The writing very much leans toward the literary. Not a word is misplaced as Mr. Crompton paints a vivid picture of a capital city in which the thrust of capitalism has created an environment in which sprawling mansions and sparkling malls exist cheek-by-jowl with grinding poverty. Not that he lingers on this poverty: the energy and drive of ordinary Kenyans, an extraordinarily entrepreneurial and forward-looking people, comes through strongly. There is no weepy-eyed Western aid worker perspective here.

While having the aforementioned literary bent, from the opening scene where Mollel dispenses justice to a bag snatcher via a thumping kick to the nuts with steel toe caps to the climactic scene amidst a bloody riot, the story zips along with pace and verve.

This is the first in a series, and it looks likely to be one that keeps bringing readers back for more. The blurb says that Mr. Crompton will do for Nairobi what Ian Rankin did for Edinburgh. He has a long way to go before he pulls off that particular trick, but the early signs are that it is well within his grasp.
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on 8 March 2014
The book is described as "disturbingly informative" and the phrase is spot on. Great story, fascinating and appealing detective with interesting supporting characters. It is perhaps a paradox that the closest you get to understanding a country/situation/people/history is through fiction. Sometimes a non-fiction book can feel as if you are being bludgeoned by facts and baldly stated horrors. Richard Crompton's fiction is much more insidious and long-lasting - in my opinion - as Mollel's troubles, background and personal history reveal the corruption and the beauty at the heart of Kenya. I just loved this book. I wanted to get on a plane and sit down and have a goat curry and a chat with this man fighting to retain his principles in an unprincipled system.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 February 2015
This is Richard Crompton's first novel and introduces the Kenyan detective, Mollel, `a Maasai warrior turned cop' in a case that unfolds in December 2007, immediately before and after a disputed Presidential election. This returned Mwai Kibaki to power amongst claims of vote rigging and which led to 800-1500 people dying in the post-electoral violence.

The Kenyan background is very effectively presented, especially the areas of great economic divide - there are a few, well-connected individuals who have power, influence and huge wealth, and the vast majority who live in poverty with little hope of the economic benefits reaching them. The novel integrates Maasai legends and culture, African colonial history, tribal diversity and distrust, money, religion, corruption and power, and police investigation into a seamless whole.

Mollel, who has been sent to serve as a traffic officer following outspoken comments on police corruption, is brought back to Nairobi to investigate the case of a Maasai woman found mutilated in a drainage ditch. The reason for the disproportionate response to this death at a time when the police are being mobilised for the election soon becomes apparent.

This is the first of a series about this unusual detective and so there is quite a lot of background presented on Mallol's humble childhood and upbringing, the death of his wife, his inability to relate to his son, Adam, and his difficult relationship to his Kikuyu mother-in-law. However, all play a significant role in the story. We also meet Kiunga, a police colleague with a very different attitude to his work, who gets involved in the investigation that continues when both officers are ordered off the case. Unlike Kianga, the more immediately likeable, Mollel is ready to break rules in his search for the truth.

Mollel is a complex character who, partly because he is a tribal outsider [the Nairobi police are overwhelmingly Kikuyu], does not easily trust and work with other colleagues. He is clearly driven and pushes himself to the limit, seemingly without eating and on a cocktail of drugs; as the book progresses we see the relationship between the two detectives developing until they can talk about their personal experiences.

Crompton very effectively highlights the differences between the forensic, scientific and information system support that the Nairobi police can access compared to their European and American colleagues. Offices are closed as Christmas approaches and police are deployed on the streets. Fingerprint and DNA comparisons, and car registration searches are all unavailable, requiring the detectives to use other means.

Amongst the characters are a dreadlocked ex-Mungiki [gang] member, a charismatic evangelical preacher at the Orpheus Church and his wife who uses her medical knowledge in an illegal manner, a businessman/politician who is responsible for the wholesale rigging of the election [Compton, an ex-BBC journalist, undoubtedly knows how this can be done and tells us], Superglue Sammy [which may explain his blindness], and assorted prostitutes and street children. Whilst these and the plot are all very well handled, the book really springs to life when Mollel is caught up in the rioting that bursts out across the city. Interestingly, with a single exception, Wazungus (white people) are absent.

The author creates a vivid picture of a seething society, riven by tribal and economic differences, with many taking solace in religion only to be again deceived and defrauded. The network of contacts between senior politicians, businessmen, officers in the GSU, the government's brutal army unit, and the police is shown overcoming the enthusiasm of the masses for the election, and organising, controlling and funding Mungiki and other thugs to do their bidding. The hate messages urging inter-tribal genocide are frighteningly reminiscent of Rwanda.

This is a very promising start to a series that is far removed from Alexander McCall Smith's Botswana. Mollel is an interesting character and it will be fascinating to see how he develops and which characters will be involved in forthcoming investigations, especially as several do not survive this book. The plotting involves entertaining twists and turns, red herrings, personal and professional tensions, and contemporary political events; since the latter play a not inconsiderable part in the book it will be interesting to see how the author manages without them, 9/10.

NB Do not confuse the author with Richmal Crompton!
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on 20 June 2013
The Honey Guide is a complex tale, with numerous threads, masterfully woven, with perception, empathy, and compassion.

The novel is an exciting read, full of immediacy, authentic flavour and detail, told with evident skill. The intertwining of past and present, of Maasai traditional stories with the contemporary realities of life in Nairobi is particularly lyrical, and refreshingly unrushed, in a novel that is otherwise fast-paced and engrossing: Richard Crompton certainly has the ability to inject the unexpected to keep the reader's interest going.

Crompton also exposes some of the ills of female genital mutilation (FGM), the exploitation and abuse of women, particularly those forced to work as prostitutes. He describes life as it is lived, but there is both the humane and human to be found everywhere. He writes with a keen understanding, also of the complex web of ethnic loyalties; more importantly, he writes with sensitivity. In fact, throughout the book empathy and understanding are in evidence, with no trace of judgementalism, or moralizing.

I look forward to more of Mollel, and others, with social history, commentary as well as social justice issues, treated anew with comprehension and empathy--and that in the crime fiction genre.
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on 29 March 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Mollel is a police officer who has left his Maasai village to work in Nairobi. Committed and tenacious he has been downgraded to traffic control after trying to expose the corruption of his fellow officers. When the mutilated body of a prostitute is found in a culvert, Mollel finds himself pulled into the murder investigation.

"The Honey Guide" is set in 2007 and the events of the novel play out against the contested election and subsequent violence. Crompton, a resident of Kenya, vividly evokes the streets, skyscrapers, and slums of Nairobi in which sinister forces are always looking to stoke ethnic tensions. Mollel is an engaging hero (who naturally has plenty of demons of his own), and Crompton's debut novel is an intelligent and enjoyable read.
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VINE VOICEon 6 March 2013
If you fancy trying out a new detective series then this is a good place to start. I was attracted to the novel by the setting (Nairobi) and the main character, Mollel (a former Maasai warrior). I've never been to Kenya but my daughter spent several months there working for a voluntary organisation and this has since sparked an interest in the country and continent. Richard Crompton evokes the sights, sounds and smells of Nairobi wonderfully. This in combination with very good prose, an intriguing plot and sound characterisation (particularly of Mollel) makes for an extremely fascinating and enjoyable read. In many respects this is in the genre of a criminal procedural. But be warned this is a different tone to the better known Ladies Detective series. Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 25 February 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Hopefully this is the start of a new trend, African detective fiction.

This is set in Kenya and provides a vivid insight into a country and a city I knew nothing about. Having got increasingly bored with Scandinavian crime thrillers this has proved to be a breath of fresh air.

This is listed as the first of a series - I am all ready looking forward to book 2.
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on 23 March 2015
I rarely leave reviews but this book deserves to be discovered and read simply because it's a cracking read. I love good crime/thriller/noir books, the lot. But they have to be good and original. I was intrigued by the idea of a Masaai detective, and the social and political background of Kenya during the elections sounded interesting without weighing down what should effectively be a fast read.
I loved it, absolutely loved it. It's engaging, powerful, enjoyable, insightful, interesting and fun. Loved it. The characters are honest and flawed. The plot is beautifully structured and perfectly balanced. Can’t wait to read the next one.
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