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Tail of the Blue Bird

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  261 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Sonokrom, a village in the Ghanaian hinterland, has not changed for thousands of years. Here, the men and women speak the language of the forest, drink aphrodisiacs with their palm wine and walk alongside the spirits of their ancestors. The discovery of sinister remains; possibly human, definitely 'evil'; in a vanished man's hut brings the modern world into the village in ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published June 4th 2009 by Jonathan Cape
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3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  261 ratings  ·  52 reviews

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Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime
A classic whodunit detective novel set in Ghana, with a literary flavour, written by a poet, with a sharp and perceptive use of local dialect. It focuses on Kayo, a forensic scientist trained in Britain and who had worked for a British police force. He has returned to Ghana and is working for a company doing mundane forensic work for a private company and hoping for something better.
The girlfriend of a minister finds something that may be human remains in a village in the interior. There are wh
K.J. Charles
This combines a state-of-the-nation read, a detective story, and a folk tale or fable. When a minister's girlfriend comes across a horrific lump of flesh in a remote Ghanaian village, the police are called in. They draft in a young Ghanaian who qualified in forensic pathology in Britain but unable to find a police post at home because of the lack of funding / his lack of connections. What follows is both a ?murder mystery involving forensics and deduction and a marvellous tale of traditions and ...more
Jul 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really loved this one. It's a criminal procedural type novel set in Ghana & does a great job of mixing modern-day police work & forensics w/ the older village traditions in Ghana. There is a mix of dialects so it takes a little bit of feeling to get into the cadence & rhythm of the storytelling (& there is apparently an online glossary available but I preferred to sink into the story & just go w/ the flow w/out stopping to look up the words), but it's really lovely once you ...more
Friederike Knabe
Oct 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: africa, african-lit
It feels good to read an entertaining story like this: Tail of the Blue Bird by Ghanaian writer, Nii Ayikwei Parkes. He is presenting us with an original murder mystery, an adventure story that moves beyond fact-based evidence with believable, well drawn characters. Despite its fantasy-like cover image, Nii Ayikwei Parkes's novel is firmly grounded in modern-day Ghanaian reality that incorporates urban as well as rural life and with it the need to bridge the different cultural, linguistic and sp ...more
Jerome Kuseh
Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: african
The first thing that hit me with this book was how unapologetically Ghanaian it was. Nii fills the book with urban pidgin English and rural Twi as well as direct translations that will leave non-Ghanaians scratching their heads.

The best part of the book is not the scientific deductions of the protagonist, Kayo, or the greed and corruption of Inspector Donkor, but the spellbinding storytelling of the old hunter, Opanyin Poku.

The logic defying mystery seems to be a rebellious attempt by Nii to ass
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
A mystery novel with supernatural overtones. The tension and harmony between modernity and tradition, ambition and righteousness. A coming of age and homecoming, and to my mind a powerful gesture of conciliation between what is worthwhile in the new and old, something postcolonial societies in particular struggle to achieve, I think.
A young scientist and forensic expert, Kayo, is coerced into investigating some foul smelling, presumably human remains found in a small village far away from the Ghanaian capital of Accra when other policemen are baffled by the villagers' lack of cooperation. A newly-minted forensic investigator, a genteel and polite Ghanaian man educated in England, is forcibly coopted by the chief of police (who, obviously, has his own agenda in pursuing the case). Kayo and his assigned partner Garba use take ...more
Alma Simba
Jul 09, 2017 rated it liked it
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Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-tbr
This was such an enjoyable Tail, with its mix of folk story and forensic science, the characters were charming and the dialogue was so full of life. I could read more of this quite happily.
When the girlfriend of the minister for roads and highways spots a disgusting red lump of flesh in a hut in the village Sonokrom, what normally would have been ignored and left to the villagers suddenly becomes a matter of national importance. Inspector Donkor wants a promotion, and he believes that one of the only forensics specialists in Ghana–Kayo–can get it for him.

What Kayo finds in the village is a people still steeped in the culture of the countryside, in touch with Onyame and the ancesto
Apr 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is not translated fiction, although really it could be, as it has lengths of conversation in the pidgin of Ghana with little more than context to help the reader to decipher it. But it is a lovely tale of the clash between modernity and traditional values, and somewhat mystical in its acceptance that science and technology do not always have the answer when the age-old magics are at play in the world. So what happens in the book? Well, the girlfriend of a high-level politician finds a missh ...more
Moushumi Ghosh
Jun 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I discovered this book on the British Council library bookshelf I knew I HAD to read it. But I didn't know what to expect. It's a joyride alright. Part literature, part whodunit, part mystery- this book defies genres.

Kayo (Kwadwo Odemttan) is a Ghanian Forensics Expert returned from the UK but forced to work in a lab run by the greedy Mr.Acquah in Accra. But when a minister's girlfriend finds a weird 'thing' that is red and moving in a hut in the village Sonokrom, the proverbial hell breaks
Jul 29, 2014 rated it liked it
There seems to be a great idea behind this text, a fusion on several levels. The dramatic contrast in the social fabric of modern Kenya is reduplicated in the narrative, a detective story that aspires to incorporate, even reconcile the split by offering a double perspective, coexistence without contradiction.

Sadly, the execution reduces this ambition to a quirk. While it is not a bad story after all, even half a year later, having given it all some thought, I cannot figure out how it is supposed
Tasha Dhyani
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the first novel I read set in Africa. It's always nice to learn a little bit about the social conduct and ways of living of the places and societies you've never visited before, so this book is somewhat insightful. I really like the idea of the story: the attempt to make sense mythical culture in the modern world using scientific approach. Also, interesting shift of voices that narrate the story. Minus one star just because the foreign vocabularies are not further explained, either in th ...more
Avishek Chatterjee
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is not for the faint hearted, for it will induct you into a wonderful world where the hunter is king and nature is proud and strong, sebi.

We get the book from two perspectives and combined it produces an almost magical whole. It's a detective story with a core mystery to it. Parkes goes into the mystery expertly - exploring both sides, the evidence and the witnesses. As opposed to most, the core character Kayo Odamtten, frustrated with a job that gives him no joy, understands the balan
Michal Strutin
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, literary
Tail of the Blue Bird, by Nii Ayikwei Parkes is, ostensibly, a mystery: human remains are discovered in the hut of a Ghanaian villager. Kayo, a forensic pathologist, is called in from Accra, the capital. What he finds is a community whose reality is lived as much with their ancestors and with spiritual beliefs as with what they see around them. Modern and traditional customs and culture elide then diverge as Kayo tries to piece the parts of this mystery into a whole. A well-known African poet, h ...more
Raghu Parthasarathy
Aug 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An excellent short novel, involving a mystery in a remote village in Ghana and its investigation, primarily by a British-educated forensic scientist. Both the story and the characters are fascinating. Many reviewers have commented on the tension between scientific and traditional worldviews, but this is not a major issue. The conflict arises not so much because of incompatibilities between these perspectives (in fact, the scientist main character fits into the village quite well), but rather bec ...more
Feb 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A story filled with poetry and a suspense-filled mystery.
"The sun was already dipping low, and as we walked I saw the birds flying off to their homes in the redness of the sky. It was as though they had fire in their wings; aburuburu, hornbills, swallows, akroma and sunbirds all in flame like the crackles that fly off my wife's coalpot when she fans the fire hard."

This is not your conventional murder mystery. You'll learn twi phrases. You'll find yourself in another world if you're European. A
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I found this book very gripping. Sometimes the dialect was a little hard to follow but I liked it because it made me feel like I was there in the story. I liked how even the side characters were interesting and complicated, and how the author gave us a sense of what it was like to live in Ghana without too much description. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who is open to a somewhat nontraditional mystery, and I'd love to read more by this author.
May 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Not my normal genre but I was intrigued enough to read it through in just a few sittings.

A simple murder mystery at heart, but it draws on some interesting material between very traditional tribal Africa and the modern world with its science and its corruption.

I was a little put off by some of the pidgin patois and localised words for everyday objects which made parts hard to understand. But the story was good and the ending worthwhile. 3 stars.
Carolyne Gathuru
Dec 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book has taken me right to the heart of rural and urban Ghana. Fantastic elucidation of family relationships, culture, the police system, beliefs, traditions, workplace politics, the rural-urban divide, the magic that food weaves as a central point for convergence, investigative forensics and of course today's Africa. Lovely story. The adrenaline around the "thing" is heart beat stopping throughout the book. Nii Ayikwei Parkes is definitely an addition to my list of favourite authors.
Nov 14, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lovely detective story set in rural Ghana, Tail of the Blue Bird draws heavily from folklore and isn't afraid to leave some things shrouded in mystery. The book ends up being a gentle critique of story-telling in all its forms. As a tribal hunter tells the forensic pathologist, “On this earth, we have to choose the story we tell, because it affects us – it affects how we live.”
Nina Chachu
Dec 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Relatively short novel which could be classified as a type of mystery, as there are elements of that type of story in it. But it also has elements of traditional stories, and a mix of language in it. I am quite impressed.
Jul 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Loved it. Nii Parkes creates a world and language that stays with you long after you have put the book down. Really easy to read, and really enjoyed this who-dunnit set in a village in Ghana. A clash of two worlds is right.
maite Larranaga
Apr 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well written

I recommend this book very much. It describes the way of living and thinking of people in Africa. It is very interesting to read and enjoy the thin line between material world and myth. Both being part of reality.
Aug 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: african-lit
The coolest thing about this detective story is how Twi is interlaced with English and one starts to be able to understand the Twi.

It also captures the difficulty of being an educated African returning to Africa.
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novelistic
Sweet spot between literary novel and page turner...not the most satisfying end but a pleasant journey.
Britta Petersen
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It's a fast, fun read, that balances old and new, traditional and modern, and embraces the voice of the people it centers on.
Jan 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good mystery story with a very new twist - western rational thinking vs. Ghana traditional thinking - and its fun
Jun 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Picked this up on a whim and really enjoyed it! I was able to interpret most of the Twi and pigdin based on context, but a small glossary at the back would not have been amiss.
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“Kayo leaned forward now, closing the distance between himself and the hunter. His mind was racing. 'So, the story you just told us. Is it true? Is that the story of Kofi Atta?'

The hunter sighed. 'That may be your story. I am not the one to tell you what is true. I am telling you a story. On this earth, we have to choose the story we tell, because it affects us - it affects how we live.”
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