Is Africa becoming the next Scandinavia? Making up a fifth of the world’s landmass, the continent has accounted for only a tiny fraction of crime publishing, but that seems to be changing. Perhaps under cover of Alexander McCall-Smith’s hugely popular and immensely charming Precious Ramotswe books set in Botswana, and certainly thanks to a growing interest by mystery and thriller readers in books with exotic settings, we’re seeing more and more excellent crime writing out of Africa. I’ve put together a list in our catalog; here are some highlights.
There is a wide variety of styles, from traditional mysteries (Elspeth Huxley’s Murder on Safari) heart-stopping suspense (Deon Meyer’s Heart of the Hunter and others) to strange genre-bending futuristic thrillers (Moxyland, by Lauren Beukes). The Botswana depicted in Michael Stanley’s series of gritty police procedurals featuring assistant superintendant David Bengu (aka Kubu, or ‘hippo,’ for his size) is a far cry from the quaint village doings of McCall-Smith’s books. Kubu grapples with dirty diamond dealers, lethal drug smugglers and corrupt government officials to track down the killer, every time. The first title is A Carrion Death.
As with crime fiction eveywhere, many African titles fully engage with the most complex and tragic issues of their locales, but in ways that can be more satisfying than some literary titles. In Kwei Quartey’s Wife of the Gods, Ghana detective Darko Dawson travels to a remote village to investigate the death of an AIDS worker. Set in a South African border town in 1952, Malla Nunn’s series debut A Beautiful Place to Die delves into the sordid history of apartheid in Africa, at a time when marriage across the color line was against the law in much of Africa and America. In Wessel Ebersohn’s Those Who Love Night, prosecutor Abigail Bukula races the clock to save seven imprisoned Zimbabwean dissidents before they suffer the usual fate of those who oppose the state. We’ve just scratched the surface here: check our the full list in our catalog.