Michael Stanley is actually two people, retired academics Michael Sears and
Stanley Trollip. Both were born and raised in Africa and they both still live
there, at least part time. A Deadly Covenant (White Sun Books, August 2022) is their
latest book about assistant superintendent David Bengu of the Botswana Police Department. Bengu
is known as Kubu, Setswana for hippopotamus, an allusion
to his size as well as a reference to his personality, genial on the surface
but deadly when provoked.
This volume is another prequel to the first books in the series, which showed Bengu at the peak of his career. A Deadly Covenant and the previous book Facets of Death (2020) are intriguing looks back at Bengu just starting out as a detective, unsure of himself, learning from his supervisor who in turn was beginning to realize Bengu’s potential.
The village of Ncamasere has embarked on a project to bring much-needed water from the Kavango River inland to struggling farms. The backhoe operator is digging the pipeline in the sandy soil when he discovers unmistakably human bones. Bengu is sent to watch the pathologist examine the scene and conduct the autopsy. So he’s observing closely when the pathologist discovers the area is actually a mass grave of what appears to be bushmen, the indigenous people of the Kalahari Desert. Bullet fragments and injuries to the bones consistent with gunshots make it a crime scene, although one many years old.
The local police station commander tries to rush the investigation, anxious to have these outsiders gone. Bengu insists that the homicides must be looked into, his thoroughness and tenacity coming to the fore. He discovers strong opinions about the water project, some anxious to receive its benefits and others who resist change. This dichotomy of urge to modernize versus reluctance to abandon ancestral practices is an underlying theme in many of the mysteries I have read set in Africa.
Somehow word of the massacre reaches the media and they descend on the village, disrupting Bengu’s work, demanding justice for the murdered natives. A fascinating subplot with a bushman illustrates some indigenous beliefs.
Not much like Precious Ramotswe’s version of Botswana, the Botswana shown here is more realistic, with the intricacies and the contradictions to be expected of such an ancient land. The resolution is far more complex than I imagined, keeping me in suspense until the final pages. A fine addition to the series.
· Publisher: White Sun Books (August 28, 2022)
· Language: English
· Paperback: 352 pages
· ISBN-10: 0997968982
· ISBN-13: 978-0997968989
Aubrey Nye Hamilton ©2022
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.