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Kgebetli Moele

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

Review: Shutter Man by Richard Montanari

Shutter ManThe Great Crime Thriller will always have a setup crime, with every act relating directly to this crime, and the thrill of crime fiction is the mystery of how it – it, it might be the wit of the investigator, the shrewdness of the perpetrators and the chase – unravel until the perpetrators are caught or the crime is solved.

Richard Montanari sets up the crime scene – the gruesome murder of a family of three and three more subsequent ritual murders with the same MO. Then the author takes a detour; the bombing of a house, the suspicious death of Detective Byne’s childhood friends and the epic look into the Farren crime family, as well as the unsolved murders of eleven-year-old Catriona Daugherty and her “supposed” killer Des Farren. These detours in the end serve no purpose or function to the story as they remain unsolved.

There are very few moments of brilliance in this tale and the story falls face down at the end when answers that were supposed to be an integral part of the story become statements from the characters. What is really a Sotar square? And how does it relate and influence the murders of these witnesses and their face skinning, and their birth certificates? How was the brutality of murdering these witnesses going to elevate a family curse? Because if criminals leave clues, it is always with intent or an unfortunate mishap. Here Montanari sets up the playing field but fails to master it.

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Illuminating Africa

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Killing SaharaIt is hard not to like Killing Sahara and its antagonist, for somebody who hates politicians needless of origin and nationality, and hoping for their substitution or total demise from society. Killing Sahara is Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ’s second born. He claimed while visiting us, here in Cape Town during the Open Book Festival, that he is better than his father, the Great Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. And when I was reading Killing Sahara, this little claim came along for the read.

What Mũkoma did here was an attempt to present the enigma that is Africa in a silver spoon, simple and complete. He tried. He did not fail though, it is just that no one can present Africa as a whole and still make sense. Therefore
Africa can only be presented in bits and pieces. It is still a challenge to anyone who thinks that they can write Africa between two covers.

There are many issues that Mũkoma confronts between these two covers and then, like a dog, he puts his tail between his legs and yelps, running away from them. This is an epic journey, not only of Kenya, not of the two detectives and their families, but of Africa, the continent and its relation with itself and the others.

The author has in a sense failed to present the epic continuous journey of this continent but decided to give us a crime story. Honestly, I saw no murder but high-end white collar crime and corruption, in total control. The issue of Rwanda and the massacres is presented like a half-naked pinup poster of a woman in the bedroom of a teenage boy. While trying to make her a strong woman, she rails off.

Then there is ethnicity, that other African curse that always rears its head like a black mamba ready to bite and inject its deadly venom in us. And it does; it induces us and then we pick up AKs and machetes, amputate a man’s arms and then rape our women, at worse we kill.

At the pinnacle; there is aid, another of Africa’s many curses. Presented on paper it is true gold but what always manifests in practice is not that which was written down but profit for individuals. Aid in Africa is a profitable business and this can be seen in the selling line: Help us, help them, those giving the aid mention themselves first as the ones in need of help.

There is Sahara and the International Democracy and Economic Security Council (IDESC), a well-to-do man who loves and understands Africa and Africans.

Honestly, I fell for his scheme, at times I was hanged and wishing that the story could go his way, maybe we would have a much better Kenya, a better Africa.

At the face of it, there are our politicians/leaders, former freedom fighters who think that the country owes them and their families, with no vision and dream for the country and only greed. These issues/characters are cut and paste, making way for the author to present the crime story.

Why did Mary have to die if the national security was threatened? Yes, she married a man of another ethnicity. This was the first low point of this tale, the author connecting O personally to the crime. This fails.

Killing Sahara is a sad book telling a sad universal story and the real criminals are the one that profit tenfold. To say that this is a crime story does this African tale injustice, this is an epic, filtered from being a human rights story to being a crime story of O and I.

The detectives are the only real people here, operating as private detectives with access to the state police force. They follow the trail of a murdered American man, and it is interesting and trilling the way the detectives peel away the onion skins to get to solve this murder. It is involving and engaging but they fail to solve the crime. They do get their man at a cost of O’s wife and a massacre but in the end they are party to the corruption of living this life as we know it.

The real winner is Jason, the security agent at the American embassy during the day cum intercontinental drug trafficker at night, and his profits are huge and intercontinental. He puppets our two detectives, buying them therefore buying their protection.

“I no longer believe that we are serving justice.” Ishmael declares while sharing a cold beer with Jason as Kenya is being used as a port for Jason’s individual profit. What Amos’ dead body lead O and I to was Jason but they let him live. This is the sad reality of this life: there is no one serving justice.

Is Mũkoma better than Ngũgĩ? Not yet, he still has to prove himself and the odds are against him.

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Image courtesy of mukomawangugi.com


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