Kirkus Reviews QR Code
DEATH OF THE MANTIS by Michael Stanley


by Michael Stanley

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-200037-8
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

A dedicated Botswana detective finds himself in the middle of simmering tensions between police and nomadic Bushmen.

A prologue set in the 1950s reveals a cave atop several desert hills as The Place, where one can meet "the spirits." In the present, rangers Ndoli and Vusi find their colleague Monzo dead in the desert at the bottom of a dry riverbed, a place well out of his bailiwick. The body is surrounded by Bushmen who vault to the top of the suspect list and are arrested. (A few weeks earlier, two University of Botswana students were found dead at a campground, and local gossip blames witchcraft.) Detective Sergeant Phinda Lerako, known to local natives as "Detective Stone Wall," won't listen to educated Bushman Khumanego's warnings against a rush to judgment. So Khumanego appeals to his old friend David "Kubu" Bengu, Lerako's subordinate in the department. The big boss, Mabaku, allows Kubu to investigate as long as he doesn't "stir things up." Unfortunately, evidence leads in a different direction, and the more Kubu follows the real trail, the harder Lerako comes down on him. Monzo's secret mistress provides some key clues, but before Kubu can put all the pieces together, a second, very similar murder raises the stakes and puts the pressure on the usually ebullient detective.

Kubu's third recorded caseĀ (The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu, 2009, etc.) is again alive with localĀ color and detail and, refreshingly, offers his fullest mystery plot yet, along with a glossary, maps and a helpful list of characters.