Published: 2nd May 2017 (Orenda Books)
When the body of a Bushman is discovered near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the death is written off as an accident. But all is not as it seems. An autopsy reveals that, although he’s clearly very old, his internal organs are puzzlingly young. What’s more, an old bullet is lodged in one of his muscles … but where is the entry wound? When the body is stolen from the morgue and a local witch doctor is reported missing, Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu gets involved. But did the witch doctor take the body to use as part of a ritual? Or was it the American anthropologist who’d befriended the old Bushman?
As Kubu and his brilliant young colleague, Detective Samantha Khama, follow the twisting trail through a confusion of rhino-horn smugglers, foreign gangsters and drugs manufacturers, the wider and more dangerous the case seems to grow. A fresh, new slice of ‘Sunshine Noir’, Dying to Live is a classic tale of greed, corruption and ruthless thuggery, set in one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, and featuring one of crime fiction’s most endearing and humane heroes.
I really enjoyed this book; both for its plot and it’s location. Michael Stanley transports us to Botswana when a Bushman is found dead near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. During the autopsy, it is found that this man was only old on the outside as his internal organs are like those of a 40-year-old.
Whilst Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu is assigned to the mysterious death, his colleague Detective Samantha Khama is assigned to the disappearance of a local well-known witch doctor – simple coincidence or is there something more sinister going on? Kubu and Khama are both extremely sceptical when it comes to alternative medicine so these are difficult cases for them to investigate as they need to put aside their personal opinions in search of justice….especially when the Bushman’s death seems less likely to be an accident after the body is stolen from the morgue and disappears!
The various strands in this story were fascinating, not only in terms of where it led the plot but also to learn more about Bushmen and witch doctors. I really enjoyed the dual plot lines as they were both full investigations within their own right by Kubu and Khama but also brought into question links between the two. I adored Kubu, he’s a wonderful straight talking officer who is a family man first and foremost and I enjoyed his rapport with Khama – they make a good team, they compliment each other.
Dying to Live is one of those books that can be devoured in one sitting. I must admit it took me by surprise how gripping it was. I’ll be honest, I’m not a massive fan of Alexander McCall Smith’s No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series as I find them a little too laid back and ‘cosy’ therefore I started this book with a little trepidation due to the comparisons between the two. However, I am extremely pleased to say that this trepidation was completely unwarranted – whilst I can see where the comparisons arise, Dying to Live has a wonderful dark side which is just fascinating. I have the 2 books that precede this one (Deadly Harvest and A Death in the Family) sitting unread on my bookcase (hangs head in shame!) which I am now most definitely bumping them up the TBR list!
A brilliant police procedural, a wonderful setting in Botswana – a fantastic introduction to ‘sunshine noir’.
Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award, and book 5, A Death in the Family, was an international bestseller.