In the aftermath of apartheid, Abigail Bukula has been fast tracked into the new government as the Director of Gender Affairs. Her family sought chang...moreIn the aftermath of apartheid, Abigail Bukula has been fast tracked into the new government as the Director of Gender Affairs. Her family sought change through reform and education, but were killed under orders of the anti-apartheid regime shortly before it's dissolution. Bukula has secrets and memories that are revealed as the old crimes surface. Good dialogue, characters well drawn, realistic presentation of post-apartheid allegiences and complex politics of the time. The mystery drives the narrative and reflects the middle-class and privledged classes of contemporary South Africa and little of day to day life and customs.
I've long been a fan of Tamar Myers's Pennsylvania Dutch Magdalena Yoder series. After all, I've traveled some of those Pennsylvania roads and Yoder i...moreI've long been a fan of Tamar Myers's Pennsylvania Dutch Magdalena Yoder series. After all, I've traveled some of those Pennsylvania roads and Yoder is such a common name among the people. All that said, what surprise to find Tamar Myers writing about Africa - the Congo...
For me, the Headhunter series just fits right in there.
The series is wonderful. It's clearly written from the anglo, missionary perspective - somewhat fearful, somewhat idealized - and that's just fine. A white person trying hard to be fair, to act without prejudice and baggage in a country that's been invaded by colonialism.
Finding out that Myers was a missionary child stationed in the Congo makes it all so real. In the reader's guide to this work, Myers writes of her family's isolation and the troubles after the liberation "But," Daddy, said, "there's that nook there above your bedroom door, where we store the suitcases. Stay in your room, and don't come out, no matter what you hear. Just climb into that nook and pull that big suitcase in front of you. Your mommy and I might be killed, but if you survive maybe you can slip down to the river unseen. Just follow theriver south. Then keep going until you reach Angola."
If you've read Myers's Yoder series, you owe it to yourself to read the Headhunter series. You'll be charmed, alarmed and enchanted. There's little of the cozy sugar that characterize the Yoder series, and lots of Africa - the Congo. Why did it take Myers so long? Was it the repressed memory of these fearful experiences?
Blessed are the Dead is Malla Nunn's best work to date. Detective Emmanuel Cooper and Constable Shabalala are back to investigate the death of a breat...moreBlessed are the Dead is Malla Nunn's best work to date. Detective Emmanuel Cooper and Constable Shabalala are back to investigate the death of a breathtakingly beautiful Zulu woman.
Set in Apartheid South Africa, European and Africans don't mix, and the racism of the times pervades every aspect of the work. It's disturbing to read of the codification of racism, the structure and ridgid rules both written and unwritten that must be observed. Cooper and Shabalala are an unusual team, and unusual friends. Mixed race Cooper and Zulu Shabalala ride the divide, giving them the moral freedom to accept each other as equals."Faith, loyalty and trust kept them both above the quicksand in this clandestine operation."
Their interplay is extraordinary, communicating with nuance and the slightest motion, both understanding a sensitive situation, and seeing the most effective way to respond. At times, Shabalala takes the lead and others, Cooper.
Late in the book, Cooper is removed from the case leaving Shabalala in place as a driver for the replacement team, and to unofficially lead the investigation. As a Zulu, he is prohibited from carrying out both responsibilities. Here's Shabalala challenging the station chief: "The visual punch of a tall, solid Zulu man sitting behind a station commander's desk was stunning and immediate. Shabalala was either a dream come true or a colonial nightmare brought to life, depending on who was looking. 'Suits you,' Emmanual said. The first thing Bagley would see was a world in reverse, a black man in the power seat."
One of the features of crime fiction that particularly thrills me, is the writing that takes me to that place and time. Sometimes it's dialogue that does this, as in Mala Nunn's use of language: "Yebo, inkosi" as a greeting, or the meanings of names. I'm finding that more often, its the description and the interior dialog that is most compelling. Here's where a group of Zulu men intercept Emmanuel and Shabalala as they hike into the bush; their guide has already disappeared: "Three Zulu men dressed in traditional cowhides worn over printed cloth stood shoulder to shoulder across the the narrow path to form a roadblock. They held hardwood clubs and assegais, hunting spears with rawhide bindings and sharp blades. Together they made an impi, a fighting unit." I love it!
For Emmanuel, the interior dialogue is sometimes with the Welsh sargent from the war, a ghost that keeps him on track and focused.
So, in this, the latest and best of Malla Nunn's works, the Welsh ghost is back, so is the hated and feared Constable Bagley, the beloved doctor Zweigman, lazy lazy Ellicott and Hargrave - big bellied and red-faced, and the politically motivated and confusing character, Colonel van Niekerk. There's a couple of new characters that I hope will see again in future works too.
My thanks to the Ashland Public Library where I first found Malla Nunn, in her A Beautiful Place to Die, to Simon and Schuster for sending a review copy of Blessed are the Dead and to the South African Crime Beat that keeps me in touch with some of the most amazing writers in the world today.
Surprisingly universal myths and legends, localized by race, culture and place. "Modern cautionary tales, grim and relevant, bizarre and irreverent, l...moreSurprisingly universal myths and legends, localized by race, culture and place. "Modern cautionary tales, grim and relevant, bizarre and irreverent, lay bare the soul of a society," says Kate Turkington in a blurb. Relates these to similar tellings with a nice explanation of how the researcher determines that a report is a myth or legend. There is nothing new under the sun - ha!
A weird interplay of episodes, shifting time and scene between what was and the film in edit. Elmore Leonard writes just like his films – tense, thoug...moreA weird interplay of episodes, shifting time and scene between what was and the film in edit. Elmore Leonard writes just like his films – tense, thought provoking, scenic. A great read of third world Africa, and shipping’s unexpected gifts of wealth to kat-chewing pirates.