Thursday, May 15, 2008

Botswanan Crime Spree

Apparently the new hotbed of fictional crime is the placid country of Botswana (still waters run deep, I guess). We have the latest installment of the charming cozy mystery series by Alexander McCall Smith - "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency". This new title is The Miracle at Speedy Motors and it's as satisfying as the previous 8 books in the series. There's no serious crime, thrilling action or surprising plot twists but the characters are wonderful and you get a lovely sense of comfort reading these books. Although it is set in Botswana, it is more about personalities and relationships (not necessarily romantic) than it is about setting. I don't usually read cozy mysteries, but I heartily recommend these.
For a different take on Botswana, we have a new novel introducing Detective David "Kubu" Bengu of the Botswana CID. Written by a two-person team under the pen name of Michael Stanley, A Carrion Death makes greater use of the exotic setting than Speedy Motors. Witch doctors, wild animals and political unrest all make cameo appearances in a novel that has a grimmer feel to it. In a way, this is a more traditional crime novel in that there is actually a murder to solve, plot twists to unravel, and the underlying threat of continued violence. The character of Kubu ('hippopotamus' in the Setswana language) is an appealing person, and the reader will hope to see more of him in the future.
Personally, it's almost disconcerting to read another mystery novel using the same place names and geographic features as the McCall Smith books (he doesn't own the word 'Gabarone', but it feels like he does). Enjoy!

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