Friday, November 17, 2017

"Dying to Live"

Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Their mysteries are set in Botswana, each against a backdrop of a current issue in southern Africa. Their protagonist is David “Kubu” Bengu, assistant superintendent in the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department (CID). The third novel in the series, Death of the Mantis, was short listed for an Edgar and an Anthony, and won the Barry Award for best paperback original mystery of 2011.

The authors applied the Page 69 Test to Dying to Live, the sixth Detective Kubu mystery, and reported the following:
Page 69—it’s the start of a chapter, so it’s short:
Festus Moeng pulled his truck into the parking bay outside Gaborone’s 4x4 4U Car Rental, climbed out, and slammed the door, not bothering to lock it. He walked into the office and was pleased to discover that it was empty except for a bored-looking clerk, who glanced up at Festus and then returned his attention to his computer screen.

Festus walked over, spread his large hands on the counter, and announced, “I need some assistance here.”

The man looked up. Festus was pleased to see his expression become more respectful as his eyes scanned up Festus’s six-foot-six height with breadth to match. Still, the man held the home ground. “How can I help?” he asked casually.

“I need some information about a vehicle rented by a Dr. Christopher Collins.” He shoved a printout of an email across the counter. “Here’s the reservation confirmation. We need to know where the vehicle is now.”

The receptionist picked up the email and glanced at it. “And you are?”
Is the piece representative of the book?

Not really, and yet there are some clues here. Festus is a bully and will get his way. He’s looking for someone in the Kalahari, someone who is missing. Why the Kalahari? It’s a semi-desert area that covers a huge tract of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.  Easy to get lost in, easy to find previously undiscovered things in.

In fact, Dr. Collins is on the track of a plant, a plant purported to have remarkable properties—properties that can lead to healing and the extension of life.  One Bushman is thought to have the plant.  Such a thing would be valuable beyond belief to people who want it for themselves, people who want it for money, and even people who want it to save others.

The backstory is biopiracy—stealing the traditional knowledge of indigenous people for gain, but the theme of the book is greed and how it infects and challenges all the characters. There are the other Bushmen who suspect the plant’s existence but don’t have it, the witch doctor who claims to have it but does not, the anthropologist who is diverted to hunt for it, the drug company hunting for him, even our detective, Kubu, whose wife wants it to save her daughter.

Does the plant even exist? It doesn’t matter if people believe that it does.
Learn more about the book and authors at Michael Stanley's website.

The Page 69 Test: Deadly Harvest.

My Book, The Movie: Dying to Live.

--Marshal Zeringue