Skip to main content

A Carrion Death


A Carrion Death

Michael Stanley is the collective name for the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Sears and Trollip have shared a number of exotic adventures together, with Sears living in Johannesburg, South Africa and Trollip dividing his time between Minneapolis, Minnesota and South Africa. They write seamlessly as one and have crafted an engrossing, even enchanting, mystery.

A CARRION DEATH revolves around Detective Kubu. “Kubu” is not David Bengu’s given name; rather, it is a nickname bestowed upon him at school. A “kubu” is the Setswana term for “hippopotamus,” and Bengu, tipping the scales at 300 pounds, resembles his namesake, despite the best efforts of his loving wife, Joy, to put him on a diet. We find out that a great deal of Kubu’s time is spent eating one meal or thinking about his next. His appetite for food is matched, though not exceeded, by his tenaciousness for his work. Kubu, we discover in due course, is an assistant superintendent of police detectives for the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. He answers to Jacob Mabaku, the somewhat dyspeptic director of the department, a rigid man who nonetheless knows when to occasionally bend.

The book jumps out of a pretty gruesome block right at the beginning when an ecologist and a camp ranger happen upon the remains of a human body just as a hyena is finishing off the last few bites. The location is remote, and some tire tracks lead to and from the corpse. It has obviously been dumped, but the lack of clothing or other markings, aside from a couple of oddly broken and healed bones, make identification difficult. The investigation calls to Kubu, who in turn slowly but surely finds that the trail seems to lead back to the Botswana Cattle and Mining Company (BCMC), which is much more interested in mining --- diamonds, that is --- than in cattle. Aron Frankental, a geologist at a mine associated with BCMC, went missing just after he reported what he believed to be a shortage of diamonds from the mine.

Kubu has a bit of a personal interest in the case because Angus Hofmeyr, whose family founded BCMC, is scheduled to inherit control of the company on his 30th birthday. Angus and Kubu were not just friends at school; indeed, it was Angus who first christened Bengu and “Kubu.” Angus’s twin sister, Dianna, is to inherit additional interest in BCMC, but she seems just a tad more ambitious than that, at least when her attention is not diverted by her vociferous sexual appetite and her attraction to Jason Ferraz, who manages the mine where Frankental disappeared. Of course, Cecil Hofmeyr, who founded BCMC with his brother, Angus and Dianna’s father, may have an idea or two about hanging on to his own power as well. He has some secrets of his own, however, that just may bring him down.

Kubu walks into this swirling intrigue like a hippo into a china shop, and before long he’s attempting to solve a number of murders, in addition to the one that fed a starving hyena. He is good-natured and loves his job, so that he’s thinking about the murders when his mind isn’t on eating. He looks and, more importantly, listens, and manages to solve the mystery of the murdered and abandoned body. Not everything is resolved neatly, though. Stanley leaves enough loose threads dangling and introduces enough interesting secondary characters to make it obvious that this book is to be the first of what hopefully will be a number of Inspector Kubu novels to come.

A CARRION DEATH is full of exotic locales, compelling characters and mind-bending mysteries. Even if you should puzzle out what has taken place, it’s thoroughly entertaining to watch how Kubu puts things together even as he contemplates that all-important next feeding. You will be intrigued, and charmed, from page to page.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 26, 2010

A Carrion Death
by Michael Stanley

  • Publication Date: April 1, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0061252409
  • ISBN-13: 9780061252402