Thursday, October 13, 2011
REVIEW: Nairobi Heat, by Mukoma Wa Ngugi
Ishmael, a black detective from Wisconsin, has a problem. A nameless young white woman has shown up dead on the Madison doorstep of Joshua Hakizimana, a hero of the Rwandan genocide modeled somewhat in the vein of Paul Rusesabagina, the man whose incredible story formed the basis of the 2004 film "Hotel Rwanda". But the resemblance between the two stops there. At a dead end with his investigation in Madison, Ishmael quickly hops a plane to Nairobi, Kenya, where, accompanied by local detective known simply as "O," he tracks down a number of dirty secrets. When he returns to America, he thinks he knows where the investigation will lead, but circumstances conspire to surprise him again.
Nairobi Heat is a fun travelogue/crime novel with an engaging hero in Ishmael. Some suspension of disbelief will be needed to get over some of the plot holes, but I have to say I had a good time reading this book. I enjoyed the armchair travel to Africa and Ishmael's thoughts about being a black policeman in the U.S. and in Kenya were interesting. True to genre, the story is filled with oddball characters, from the bizarre, slightly psychotic rich Englishman who the nonetheless lives in squalor, to "Muddy," the beautiful singer and survivor of Rwandan genocide, to the victim herself, whose identity and back story are revealed by the end.
The characters combined with the setting, rendered as gritty and slick with blood and tragedy, make for a very enjoyable read. It's not too violent although this is a crime novel about murder steeped in genocide and you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs! But I only had to look away a couple of times. I plan to keep an eye out for more from this author and I'd definitely recommend Nairobi Heat to crime readers looking for something off the beaten path.
You can also find out more about the Melville International Crime series here. Melville has some great-looking titles from all over the world and if you like crime fiction it's well worth a look!
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Melville House.