A Carrion Death
Fiction, 480 pages
Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip, writing as Michael Stanley have penned an impressive debut novel, recognized as a Debut Dagger and 2008 Minnesota Book Award Finalist. These two African adventurers have enjoyed numerous safaris and are well versed in the ways of the bush. Extensive experience and distinctive writing flair combine to make A Carrion Death a good read!
Stanley introduces readers to the main character, the Assistant Superintendent of Botswana’s Police Department, David Bengu, aka “Kubu.” An appropriate nickname, considering his size and insatiable appetite, as Kubu is Setswana for hippopotamus. A strong, tenacious man, that loves his wife Joy and cares for his aging parents. He doesn’t mind going against the tide and still believes in the old-fashioned values of honor, respect and justice. It is these qualities that will endear Kubu to readers, because he’s a believable, three dimensional character, with strengths and weaknesses we can all relate too.
Detective Kubu is called out to the desert, where a group of scientists on a field trip , discovered a badly decomposed, dismembered body that has also been ravaged by wild animals. Kubu instinctively recognizes he’s dealing with a murder, which is later confirmed by the medical examiner. Investigating this death is compounded by decomposition and what appears to be specific mutilation, meant to hinder any attempts at identification. The search for information on this John Doe leads the detective to Botswana Cattle and Mining Company (BCMC), headed by Cecil Hofmeyr, who just happens to be a golfing buddy of Jacob Makabu…who just happens to be Kubu’s boss! And the plot thickens…
The tense dynamic within the Hofmeyr family is in stark opposition to the loving, warm relationships within the Bengu family. It’s soon revealed that Cecil Hofmeyr’s days running BCMC solo are numbered, as his niece and nephew, Dianna and Angus, will inherit their father’s share of the company on their 30th birthdays and he is concerned his many questionable deals will soon be uncovered. As the investigation continues, Kubu is reunited with old friends, begins to question the motives of some of those close to him and watches, seemingly helpless, as one after another of his contacts is found murdered.
A Carrion Death crisscrosses two genres, thriller and mystery, which at times seems to cause the story to run long and be unnecessarily complex, which is not unusual for a first installment. However, where this series differs is with the strength of their main character, as well as, the incredibly detailed and authentic African scenery, which set this debut apart, leading me to expect great things from Detective Kubu in the future.
*Carrion (from the Latin caro, meaning meat) refers to the carcass of a dead animal. Carrion is an important food source for large carnivores and omnivores in most ecosystems and plays an important role in the circle of life. (Ex. Hyenas, Vultures, Black Bears, Bald Eagles, Raccoons, etc.)
An example of carrion in literature can be found in Julius Caesar, Act 3 scene 1, “this foul deed shall smell above the earth with carrion men, groaning for burial”, in which the word carrion implies that the bodies are rotting and infected with disease and bacteria. Another example: Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, when the title character kills an unknown bird for food but finds “its flesh was Carrion, and fit for nothing.”
Read the Complete Text online or download PDF – click here for Robinson Crusoe