A Deadly Covenant by Michael Stanley – A Detective Kubu Series

While building a pipeline near the Okavango Delta, a contractor unearths the remains of a long-dead Bushman. Rookie Detective David ‘Kubu’ Bengu of Botswana CID and Scottish pathologist, Ian MacGregor, are sent to investigate, and MacGregor discovers eight more skeletons.

Shortly after the gruesome discoveries, the elder of a nearby village is murdered in his home. The local police are convinced it was a robbery, but Kubu isn’t so sure … and neither is the strange woman who claims that an angry river spirit caused the elder’s death.

As accusations of corruption are levelled and international outrage builds over the massacre of the Bushman families, Kubu and his colleagues uncover a deadly covenant, and begin to fear that their own lives may be in mortal danger…

Review

A Deadly Covenant By Michael Stanley once again brought Detective David ‘Kubu’ Bengu into my world and I could not have been more delighted. For me it is refreshing as a reader, to be able to read a novel set within the African Landscape, far, far away from the typical European setting most detective books set in. I could feel the heat, almost feel the sand between my toes and indulge in the way the culture and the landscape gives this series a very individual feel. The unfamiliar generating a more intense sense of unease as different habits, values and way of expressing beliefs, causes deadly problems between the bushmen and those now living on their tribal lands, in this new installment of one of my favourites series. The combination of magical, the mystery and a much loved character together, meant I absolutely adore every signal page of the story.

Characterisation has always been important to me as a reader and ‘Kubu’ is one of my favourites. Here in A Deadly Covenant he is at his most adorable best. I don’t always want a protagonist who is scared by trauma, tortured by the loss of a wife, a case gone wrong which forever haunts them, sometimes I want Kubu. Warm, insecure, earnest and committed to bringing the killer to justice. He shows that having an open mind, not allowing prejudice to blind him against the truth, is what makes him such a wonderful character. He is willing to ensure that he doesn’t take sides with the many factions in this story, his charming honesty making him the perfect foil to a complex and deadly foe. Especially so in A Deadly Covenant it is his insecurity, combined with a keen intelligence that makes many around him under to estimate his his ability, more fool them, because Kubu with every book that is written about his early life as a policeman, becomes more rounded, more fleshed out, forming the man he becomes in later life.

The story is a clever combination of mystery and characterisation. The writers managing to ground the story in the landscape without losing site of Kubu’s most endearing characteristics, never allowing an often complex plot, full of many possible antagonists to become mired in too many twists. I loved how each were given very believable reasons to kill, but equally explanations as to why they could just be innocent parties in someone’s else’s murderous intentions. It kept me as a reader on edge at all times, trying and failing to out guess the minds of the writers. The fact that the overall feeling of the book for me is more gentle than many in this genre, doesn’t mean it lacks a powerful sense of excitement. In fact the combination of these is what draws me back to both the series and it’s lead character and will continue to do so for as long as Michael Stanley chooses to keep writing them.

You can buy this novel directly from the publisher at Orenda Books. You can also purchase it from Waterstones and Amazon.

About the authors

Michael Stanley is the writing team of South African authors Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. 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 CID. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger. The third in the series, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award for Best Paperback Original mystery and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award. A Death in the Family and Dying to Live are the latest in the Detective Kubu series, published by Orenda Books. A prequel to the Detective Kubu series, Facets of Death, was published in 2021 and A Deadly Covenant follows Kubu’s second case.

Dashboard Elvis Is Dead by David F Ross

Renowned photo-journalist Jude Montgomery arrives in Glasgow in 2014, in the wake of the failed Scottish independence referendum, and it’s clear that she’s searching for someone.

Is it Anna Mason, who will go on to lead the country as First Minister? Jamie Hewitt, guitarist from eighties one-hit wonders The Hyptones? Or is it Rabbit – Jude’s estranged foster sister, now a world-famous artist?

Three apparently unconnected people, who share a devastating secret, whose lives were forever changed by one traumatic night in Phoenix, forty years earlier.

Taking us back to a school shooting in her Texas hometown, and a 1980s road trip across the American West – to San Francisco and on to New York – Jude’s search ends in Glasgow, and a final, shocking event that only one person can fully explain…

An extraordinary, gritty and tender novel about fate and destiny, regret and absolution – and a road trip that changes everything…

Review

I have seen Dashboard Elvis Is Dead described as extraordinary and it is the perfect way to describe the new novel by David F Ross.

It is quite a statement to live up to, but having just finished it, I have to say that I agree one hundred percent. The writing is dazzling, the story threaded through with a humour that is both dark and haunting.

The cast of characters within its pages are so vividly drawn, that I found myself utterly mesmerised by their lives, their loves. losses and the world they inhabited. For me, books without great characters are devoid of a soul, not a problem in Dashboard Elvis Is Dead, because Anna Mason and the devasting secrets that connect her to Jude Montgomery and Jamie Hewitt bring this narrative alive. The connections between them and the forces that push them together, then apart, give the story an abundance riches, that reward the reader over and over.

Here within the pages of this novel is humanity in all of its many forms, beside the main characters of Jamie and Anna, we have a friend of Anna’s whose fractured life came close to breaking me. The writer’s description of their ever-evolving relationship and how it played out against the 9/11 attacks on World Trade Centre, represents for me, one of the finest literary retellings of this event, that I have ever read. It is a moment that when you are reading, the world around you stops revolving, capturing you at a juncture in which you know the story will come to be defined either with unbearable pain or palatable relief. To read on or not, is not a choice, but that sense of almost unbearable tenderness and painful anticipation is the reason why reading means so much to us all. It is utter perfection.

The humour is dark, often incredibly so and I loved it. I laughed, I cried and I never wanted it to stop. You laugh because you care, you laugh because you know that within life, humour is often found at the darkest and most absurd of moments. In a book that deals with addiction, violence and so much more, by sometimes turning tragedy into laughter, means you are exploring human nature during its most vulnerable of moments and doing so, not to make light of a dark subject, but to give it a sweeter sense of pathos. Within the pages of Dashboard Elvis, tears are turned into laughter, laughter into tears and it is done within a novel that celebrates humour and characterization at their very best.

You can buy this novel directly from Orenda Books. From Amazon and Waterstones

About the author

David F. Ross was born in Glasgow in 1964 and has lived in  Kilmarnock for over 30 years. He is a graduate of the Mackintosh  School of Architecture at Glasgow School of Art, an architect by day, and a hilarious social-media commentator, author and enabler by night. His debut novel The Last Days of Disco was shortlisted for the  Authors Club Best First Novel Award, and optioned for the stage by the Scottish National Theatre. All five of his novels have achieved notable critical acclaim and There’s Only One Danny Garvey, published in 2021 by Orenda Books, was shortlisted for the prestigious Saltire Society Prize for Scottish Fiction Book of the Year. David lives in Ayrshire.

My Wonderful Reading Year – November 2022 – The Journey Continues.

Well, it felt like November has flown by. Not only is Christmas fast approaching, but it will soon be time to pick my favourite reads of 2022! Not an easy task at any time, but more so this year, having read some amazing books, both by new authors and old favourites. Many of the books I read this November will feature in that list because they were all individually very good, especially the non-fiction reads.

First up are the book I read from my rather high to be read pile.

The House Party – A Short History of Leisure, Pleasure and The Country House Weekend by Adrian Tinniswood.

Short it might be, but it packs a lot into such a small book. If you are looking for a concise history of the country house and those that lived and partied through one of history’s most violent periods of change, then this is the book for you. I have studied this period of history and the country house’s role in social history quite a lot and so there was nothing in there that surprised me, but it is well written and imagined. Maybe it could be used as a starting point to learning about a period on the cusp of violent change.

The Magician by Colm Toibin

This was the book selected as October’s read by the Waterstones Cardiff book group. I loved the writing, characterisation and the period in which the book is set. It was made all the more fascinating because it is the fictionalised story of German writer Thomas Mann. It reads a bit like an autobiography, but one in which we are privileged to take a journey beyond the facts of his life and into an imagined telling of his thoughts, actions and a life lived through a period of such violent change.

Women and Power – A Manifesto by Mary Beard

I am ashamed to admit that this stunning pocket-sized book has sat on my bookshelf for many years! I was inspired by her words, felt angry at the how women have been written out of history, excluded just for being female. I want better for my niece and my godchildren, and this book inspires change.

Delicacy by Katie Wix

I bought this book on the recommendation of the lovely staff at Swansea Waterstones and the lovely Kathryn at Nut Press! I knew it would be great as a result and I was right, moving, inspiring and darkly funny, I found her writing and story poetic in nature. In it she speaks with a clear and original voice about events that led her down a dark path, but from which she has, by writing this book, shown others that there is a route out of the darkness.

Now the books I read to review as part of blog tours, or at the request of authors.

Dawnlands by Philipa Gregory.

When picking up a Philippa Gregory novel you know you are going to be guaranteed a thrilling story, beautifully researched and inhabited by a cast of characters that feel so real, you could walk into their world, becoming part of their story.  It is no mean feat given the phalera of books set in this period, to be able to stand above the crowd as Dawnlands does, because it is written by an experienced storyteller who knows how to deliver a first class read, an intelligent story that had me gripped throughout. 

The Pain Tourist by Paul Cleave

In The Pain Tourist, the twists and turns that are a staple part of the thriller genre are used sparingly and as a result have far more impact. The drama becoming subtle, intricately woven into the story and not dominating it. God, how I loved that, that feeling that you just have to read one more chapter, than one more, because you are drawn in, so involved that sleep becomes a luxury and not a necessity. Paul Cleave for me understands that less is more and uses that with such skill, you really don’t see as he leads you down a one-way street, forcing you then to do an about turn, leaving previous assumptions behind you.

Well, that was November 2022 and that means there is only one reading month left this year. I plan on packing it with some amazing books. Hope your reading October was as great as mine.