In Nairobi's Uhuru Park, the police have recovered the body of a local prostitute: a Maasai woman, brutally murdered. It's hard to discern what went wrong. Was this a female circumcision gone awry? Was she the victim of a pimp, or maybe of one of her customers?
Detective Mollel, himself a former Maasai warrior, is assigned to the case. Like all great heroes in crime fiction, Mollel is complicated, even flawed. His scars and stretched earlobes, the hallmarks of the Maasai, make him conspicuous on the streets of corrupt contemporary Nairobi. Worse still, he can't seem to leave well enough alone, no matter what the consequences.
As Mollel pursues the death of the prostitute, he begins to suspect something far more extensive than an ordinary murder. But are his warrior's instincts - which have never failed him - as true as they feel? Or will all his convictions about the case be turned on their head? As the investigation devolves into chaos, the outcome becomes more personal than he could ever have imagined.
With the sophistication of Ian Rankin and Colin Harrison, and set against the backdrop of Kenya's turbulent 2007 elections, Richard Crompton's Hour of the Red God brings Nairobi and its citizens vividly to life: gritty and modern, with an extraordinary blend of tribal and urban elements. In this dark thriller, tradition and power collide to a shocking, unforgettable end.
SATURDAY, 22 DECEMBER 2007
The sun is at the vertical, and shade is as scarce as charity on Biashara Street. Where it existsin shop fronts and alleyways, like cave mouths and canyonslife clings: eyes blink, and patiently they watch.
They see a man and a boy walking along the sidewalk, the boy turning every third or fourth step into a skip to match his companion's rangy stride.
The man, in concession, has stooped slightly to maintain a conversational height. Their posture suggests that if either reached out a hand, the other would grasp it, but for their own reasons, neither will offer. They are father and son.
But where would you ride it? the father asks wearily. It's evidently a long-running conversation.
Anywhere! says the boy. I could go to the shops for you.
Adam, this is Nairobi. You go out on your own on a bike, you're going to get killed. Have you seen the drivers here?
Then around the compound. Grandma's house. It's ...
What I like most about this novel is how Crompton allows readers to experience Nairobi with all five senses. Through his vivid descriptions we feel the oppressive heat while waiting in horrific traffic, we taste the dust of the landscapes and the spiciness of chai, and we hear the supportive murmurs of churchgoers as Reverend George Nalo preaches about God and what to look for in a political candidate.
(Reviewed by Elena Spagnolie).
Full Review (1185 words).
One of the reasons Richard Crompton's Hour of the Red God is so appealing is that he delivers different, fresh characters who have a strong sense of (and often struggle with) their cultural identity. The star of the book, Detective Mollel, was born into and raised within the Maasai tribe, one of Africa's semi-nomadic, cattle-herding groups.
The Maasai people speak Maa, with many also speaking one or both of Kenya's official languages, English and Swahili. They reside in the southern portion of Kenya and flow into Tanzania along the Great Rift Valley. It is estimated that over 800,000 people belong to the tribe, however, according to the Maasai Association, " Maasai see the national census as government meddling and often miscount ...
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