Rachel Hall's Reviews > Deadly Harvest

Deadly Harvest by Michael Stanley
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's review
Jul 11, 2016

it was amazing

Deadly Harvest was my first encounter with the writing duo of Michael Stanley (Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip) and the two have combined superbly to deliver an utterly fascinating portrayal of a very modern Botswana. Deadly Harvest immerses the reader amidst the landscape, culture and politics of the region whilst tackling head on the contentious topic of witch doctors and their place in the hearts and minds of the natives. Whilst I wouldn't normally have contemplated reading a novel which deals with a subject matter which I would readily ascribe short shrift to, I am overjoyed to say that I have been proved wrong! Deadly Harvest was a truly compulsive thriller which has instead allowed me to discover a whole new culture and gives a very welcome voice to the residents of Botswana. Busting many of the myths which abound regarding traditional African medicines and delivering an impartial look at the power of witch doctors and their place in the African culture, the authors have delivered a captivating and insightful novel.

Assistant Superintendent David 'Kubu' Bengu of the Botswana CID is a man whose belief in justice remains as strong as the day he joined the force, thus he is none too happy when his boss assigns him to investigate the recent death threats targeted at a prominent local political candidate. Bill Marumo of the Freedom Party is spreading the message of hope, encouraging the sharing of the wealth of the nation and is attracting a legion of supporters. When he is swiftly murdered his political enemies are the obvious first suspect, but as passions rises and the public clamour for a response, Kubu begins to suspect that there was much more to the man than simply his political profile. As Kubu investigates this case he is simultaneously mentoring a new female recruit, DS Samantha Khama, who has self-funded a university education and has high hopes of giving a voice to neglected and less privileged sectors of society. That DS Khama's first concern is addressing the string of missing young girls that seem to have fallen by the wayside and are now considered as stone cold speaks volumes for her tenacity and courage. When she and Kubu discover that very scant investigation was ever given to the initial police reports, Samantha raises the suspicions that these girls may have been taken in order to harvest their body parts for the purpose of making 'muti' (traditional African medicines). That these two cases will merge and be inextricably linked to a far darker truth is something neither can foresee. Deadly Harvest is an enthralling ride where the stakes are far higher than your average crime novel...

Regardless of whether Kubu believes that witch doctors have any power or simply rely on the power of suggestion, they undoubtedly do still hold a place in the African culture and he recognises and appreciates this. Sears and Trollip have managed to distinguish between traditional African medicines, typically derived from herbs and plants and the altogether more macabre harvesting of human parts and what is traditionally termed as 'muti'. As long as the rumours and promises of the witch doctors are so firmly entrenched in the psyche of the community, Kubu understands that the practice will always remain. In making clear that using human remains are entirely off limits and the lives that are sacrificed in order to make 'muti' are an investigative priority, Kubu and Khama are an inspirational team. Understanding the motives, who benefits and just what upholds the power of the witch doctors has enlightened me and proved an enriching experience. The prevalence of AIDS within Botswana is also addressed and Sears and Trollip illustrate the contrast in the understanding between different generations through Kubu's interactions with his elderly parents. From the danger inherent in Kubu's occupation and the potential for bloodshed having such stark implications, right through to Kubu's mother and her inability to understand that AIDS cannot be cured by a visit to a witch doctor and that the HIV virus under control with anti-retroviral drugs is a markedly different situation.

DS Samantha Khama with her abrasive attitude and revolutionary ideas suspects that most of her colleagues who form CID are reluctant to investigate the murky practices of witch doctors but Kubu proves to be the exception. As Kubu teaches the fiery DS Khama that controlling her temper and keeping her colleagues onside will make the investigative process far easier in the long haul, readers are treated to the beginning of an endearing working relationship which I hope will feature in following books in the series. A big character, both in terms of size and personality, Kubu is an utter joy and alongside his new female sidekick who promises to shake up the old school procedures this duo offers hope to all those who reside in the country. Kubu's life away from the office is refreshingly ordinary and his love for wife Joy and daughter Tumi is admirable. That his parents still play such a part in his family life adds a wonderful dimension and giving their perspective on the long held reliance on witch doctors illustrates the changing mindset of the country. With his voracious appetite and keen eye on seeing justice done, Kubu with the new addition DS Khama have realms of potential and this team is ripe for exploration.

Deadly Harvest is exactly the type of crime fiction that I adore, combining an understanding of the cultures and beliefs of a country, all topped off with a little political intrigue to convey the sentiment of the area. Intelligent and enriching, this series promises to be an original and engaging one and I am very keen to read more! The writing team of Michael Stanley deserve to be applauded for their impartial discussion of the topic of witch doctors, all with a decidedly dark tone and a central character of genuine originality. Detective David 'Kubu' Bengu and his colleagues promise to breathe new life into the traditional police genre. Deadly Harvest is crime fiction which both educates and opens eyes and immerses readers fully in the African culture. Now, get me on the first plane to Botswana and I'll even take the cookies to ensure Kubu is firing on all cylinders!
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