Book Review: A Death in the Family by Michael Stanley

Title: A Death in the Family
Author: Michael Stanley
Publisher: Orenda Books
Publication Date: 28 October 2015
Rating: 4.5 stars
‘There’s no easy way to say this, Kubu. Your father’s dead. I’m afraid he’s been murdered.’

Faced with the violent death of his own father, even Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Bengu, Botswana CID’s keenest mind, is baffled. Who would kill such a frail old man? The picture becomes even murkier with the apparent suicide of a government official. Are Chinese mine-owners involved? And what role does the US Embassy have to play?

Set amidst the dark beauty of modern Botswana, A Death in the Family is a thrilling insight into a world ofriots, corruption and greed, as a complex series of murders presents the opera-loving, wine connoisseur detective with his most challenging case yet. When grief-stricken Kubu defies orders and sets out on the killers’ trail, startling and chilling links emerge, spanning the globe and setting a sequence of shocking events in motion. Will Kubu catch the killers in time … and find justice for his father?
Thank you to Orenda books for providing me with a copy of this book for review.
A Death in the Family is the fifth book in the Detective Kubu series but can certainly be read as a standalone novel.
Assistant Superintentant David ‘Kubu’ Bengu is Botswana CID’s best detective. After many years of crime-solving, Kubu finds himself on the other side of the desk, so to speak, when his father is found murdered. Understandably devastated by the loss of his father, Kubu struggles with the knowledge that he is not allowed to be involved in the investigation into the murder.
The tale takes us from small town Botswana and all the way to bright lights of New York, whilst Kubu ignores instruction from his superiors and tries to find the answers he needs to put his father’s death behind him.
Kubu is a fantastic character. A big and gentle family man, he is certainly a force to be reckoned with – a man who lets nothing stop him from digging away until the truth is revealed. This is not your average flawed hero, but rather a normal man with a good job and a nice family. The supporting characters are all equally well-developed and well-placed by the author.
I though the writing style was absolutely perfect for this book. There is a gentle laid-back tone to the tale, which is contrary to the frantic nature of a lot of detective stories, yet it does not detract from the seriousness of the storyline in any way. There is also an underlying humour to the books which I very much appreciated. From Kubu’s love of food to his views on big-city New York and a level of cold that he could not have appreciated before, there were parts of this tale which certainly left me smiling.
I loved reading about Botswana and found myself, on several occasions, putting the book aside whilst I checked online on some aspect of Botswana geography or history mentioned within the book. The author provides some vivid descriptions of a warm and welcoming country where modern coincides with tradition and where there seems to be a gentler pace to life. On a slightly darker note, the authors also give the reader a fascinating glimpse into the corruption and greed found in the dark underbelly of Botswana society.
The plotline is well-developed and had a good flow, making for a very interesting and believable story. There are several threads to the tale, which adds a level of complexity to the story. Those thread are obviously well thought-out by the author and neatly tie together by the end of the book to give the reader a satisfactory conclusion to the tale. I also enjoyed the police procedural aspect to the tale and found it interesting to read how the different investigations linked together.
I have heard A Death in the Family described as ‘sunshine noir’. I had to look up this term and it fittingly was the description given by Icelandic crime writer, Ysra Sigurdardottir, for another of Michael Stanley’s  books “Under the African Sun” and is further described as “dark stories that take place in the blinding sunshine or withering heat. That certainly seems applicable here and I would say that A Death in the Family is a great example of sunshine noir.
A Death in the Family is a hugely enjoyable and intelligent read with an interesting storyline that kept me gripped from beginning to end. I am very keen now to get my hands on a few more of Michael Stanley’s books and to read a bit more about Detective Kubu. I would certainly recommend this book to one and all!
About the Author
MICHAEL STANLEY is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both are retired professors who have worked in academia and business. Sears is a mathematician, specializing in geological remote sensing. Trollip is an educational psychologist, specializing in the application of computers to teaching and learning, and a pilot. They were both born in South Africa.
They have been on a number of flying safaris to Botswana and Zimbabwe, where it was always exciting to buzz a dirt airstrip to shoo the elephants off. They have had many adventures on these trips including tracking lions at night, fighting bush fires on the Savuti plains in northern Botswana, being charged by an elephant, and having their plane s door pop open over the Kalahari, scattering navigation maps over the desert.. These trips have fed their love both for the bush, and for Botswana.

It was on one of these trips that the idea surfaced for a novel set in Botswana.
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