When the writing duo behind Michael Stanley (Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip) first introduced Detective Kubu in 2008, the crime fiction community and fans of the genre immediately took notice. Here was a character who was iconic as he was original, solving crimes in Botswana – an exotic and mysterious location for many readers. After six novels in that series and many short stories featuring the corpulent Detective Kubu, the writing team took an unexpected, but inspired, detour in 2020 with Facets of Death, the first prequel novel to the series giving readers a glimpse of a young, inexperienced Kubu. This seems to have been the start of another sub-series which will fill in the backstory of this popular crime solver. The second prequel, A Deadly Covenant, is now available for readers everywhere.
Still early in his career with Botswana CID, Kubu’s latest case begins with the discovery of a skeleton unearthed during the excavation for a new water project in the Okavango Delta. One skeleton quickly grows to the discovery of eight other long dead bushmen – men, women, and even children. It quickly becomes clear that the locals are going to continue to deny any knowledge of this massacre, so it falls to Kubu to dig for answers.
When a series of present-day deaths in the area seem suspiciously coincidental, Kubu and his supervisor – Assistant Superintendent Mabaku – begin to throw accusations around hoping that somewhere along the lines their disparate and rising body count will begin to make sense. Is it tied to the water project itself or is there some other long-standing tradition at play here?
As has been common throughout the Detective Kubu series, Michael Stanley weaves together the core mystery and the landscape of Africa in magical ways. The powerful mystic tradition of this culture and their beliefs in the power of spirits provides fascinating – and maybe misleading – diversions along the way toward the final, surprising revelations. But really, it is the glimpse of a young Kubu that will be most fascinating to longtime readers of the series. In both of the prequel novels, Michael Stanley has managed to document the evolution of this man in such believable ways that it is easy to picture him as the more established character readers later meet in the original series of Kubu novels. Lighter moments, which echo the humor that is found throughout the series, are highlighted in Kubu’s continued interactions with fan favorite, Joy Serome.
The men behind the name Michael Stanley have always shown the highest regard for Africa and its history. They have an innate understanding of this continent – and most especially Botswana, itself. The mysteries on which their books focus are invariably tied to the history of that region and celebrate the peoples, cultures, and traditions found there. A Deadly Covenant is no exception.
It can be a risk when a beloved author chooses to shift focus on a beloved series, but in the cases of these prequel novels, Michael Stanley is able to maintain the high quality of the original novels, while also adding depth to the mythology behind the detective readers love so much. Here’s hoping for a few more “early” Kubu cases, as there is still so much to learn about this unique character, his colleagues, and the country he calls home.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.