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Deadly Harvest  - Michael Stanley

A young girl goes missing on her way home from shopping. The police do little to find her and she vanishes without a trace. Months later another girl disappears, her father taking it upon himself to find out what happened to her. New detective Samatha Khama is dealing with the cases and believes the girls were taken to be used in muti, African traditional medicine. Calling on the help of Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Bengu, Samantha is soon on the trail of a serial killer shrouded in magic and mystery.

The storyline dealing with muti was fascinating. Whilst I had heard of the traditional medicines of witch doctors I had little knowledge of this area. The basis of the witch doctors, both those who dealt with traditional herbal medicines and those who dabbled in the darker aspects of the trade was a major theme of the story. It was extremely interesting to find out more about this little known aspect of African culture.

 

The mystery itself was engaging, made more emotional as the view points of the victims were shown at various times throughout the novel. Whilst I’d guessed the culprit before the reveal there were plenty of red herrings and potential conspiracies, especially as the belief in muti is widespread and encompasses a variety of people, including those in power and in positions of responsibility.

 

There is an eclectic cast of characters, some of them easy to envisage, such as Big Mama who runs the local pub and Joy, Kubu’s wife. I particularly liked Kubu. He was both jovial and serious, a man used to thinking carefully and using intellect to help solve cases. I wasn’t as sure about Samantha who seemed to have a sense of perpetual anger, understood to a point in that she is one of the few female detectives. However, she did seem to take her stance to an extreme, being overly confrontational in some respects when perhaps you would have expected some deference in consideration of her rank compared to Kubu. This is the first novel I have read featuring Kubu and his world and I hope that the characters are expanded upon more in future books.

 

I loved the setting of the novel. Botswana is a place I am not familiar with and I found myself searching for pictures of the places mentioned so I could see if my imagination was close to reality. The location was very much a character in itself and I believe shaped the nature and style of the story. I could easily imagine the people and locations, the mix of the relaxed nature of the inhabitants who were at the same time obviously hard working. The culture of how women as perceived and the tradition of big families was often mentioned as was the tragic situation with HIV and the treatment of lack thereof.

 

All in all a good mystery. I’m looking forward to reading more about the adventures of Kubu in future novels.