A Carrion Death (Detective Kubu Series #1)

A Carrion Death (Detective Kubu Series #1)

by Michael Stanley

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Smashed skull, snapped ribs, and a cloying smell of carrion. Leave the body for the hyenas to devour—no body, no case.

But Kalahari game rangers stumble on the human corpse mid-meal. The murder wasn't perfect after all. Enter Detective David "Kubu" Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department, an investigator whose personality and physique match his moniker, the Setswana word for hippopotamus—which is a seemingly docile beast, but one of the deadliest, and most persistent, on the continent.

Beneath a mountain of lies and superstitions, Kubu uncovers a chain of crimes leading to the most powerful figures in the country—cold-bloodedly efficient and frighteningly influential enemies who can make anyone who gets in their way disappear.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061871610
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Series: Detective Kubu Series , #1
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 9,392
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Sears was born in Johannesburg, grew up in Cape Town and Nairobi, and teaches at the University of the Witwatersrand. Trollip was also born in Johannesburg and has been on the faculty of the universities of Illinois, Minnesota, and North Dakota, and at Capella University. He divides his time between Knysna, South Africa, and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Read an Excerpt

A Carrion Death
Introducing Detective Kubu

Chapter One

The hyena moved off when the men shouted. It stood about fifty yards away, watching them with its head low between powerful shoulders, wary, not fearful, waiting for its chance to retake the field. The men stood in silence, staring at what the hyena had been eating.

Yellowed bones pierced through areas of sinew and desiccated skin. The head, separated from the spine, lay about a yard away. Remnants of skin on the upper face stretched in a death mask over the skull and pulled at the scalp. The lower part of the face had been torn away, and the back of the skull was smashed by jaws hungry for the brains. The eye sockets were empty, save for dried blood; one of the vultures had already had a turn. Snapped ribs lay scattered, but the backbone and pelvis were intact. One leg remained attached; the other was gone. The lower half of one arm was missing; the other, freshly crunched by the hyena, lay a short distance away. There was a cloying smell of carrion, unpleasant but not unbearable. The scavengers had removed most of the flesh, and the desert sun had desiccated the rest. The flies, less cautious than the hyena, had startled to a buzzing swarm but now resettled, fat green jewels on the dirty bones.

"It's definitely a man," said Andries unnecessarily.

Bongani was staring at the bodiless head.

"It's not one of our people," Andries continued. "Would've heard that somebody was missing. It'll be one of those bloody poachers that have been causing trouble up north. Damned cheek, coming this close to the camp." Andries gave the impression that the man had got his justdeserts, given this lack of proper respect for the authorities.

Bongani looked at the area around the corpse. Thorn acacias, trees typical of Kalahari stream verges, were scattered along the edges of the dry river. Vultures brooded in the branches, waiting for another chance at the remaining scraps should the men and the hyena withdraw. The riverbanks consisted of mud baked to hardness by the sun. From there scattered tufts of grass spread away from the bank, becoming less frequent as they battled the encroaching sand. Beyond that the desert had won, and the first slope of loose sand ran up to the Kalahari dunes, which stretched endlessly into the haze.

The two men stood under one of the trees, its canopy cutting off the heat, its roots sucking moisture from the subterranean water. The body sprawled on the edge of a mess of twigs, leaves, and branches that had fallen to the ground over the years. Behind it lay the sand bed of the long-vanished river, patterned with tracks of animals, some old with the edges of the imprints crumbling, and some as recent as those of the disturbed hyena.

Bongani spoke for the first time since they had spotted the vultures circling. "Do you have problems with white poachers here?"

Andries just looked at him.

"Look at the head. There's still some hair left on the scalp."

Andries knelt next to the skull and examined it more closely. Although the hair was fouled with blood, one could tell it was straight and perhaps two inches long. This was a disturbing development. These days game reserves survived on tourists rather than conservation imperatives, and bad publicity would be unwelcome.

"You wouldn't expect to find a poacher down here anyway. You just said so," Bongani pointed out. "And why on his own in a dangerous area? They don't operate like that."

Andries was reluctant to give up his simple diagnosis. "Some of them aren't in gangs, you know. Just hungry people trying to get some food." But he knew it would never wash with that straight hair. "But not the white ones," he admitted. "It'll be some damn fool tourist. Has a few too many beers in the heat and decides to take off into the dunes to show how macho he is in his four-by-four that he's never had off-road before. Then he gets stuck." The retributive justice of this new idea made him feel a little better.

Bongani focused farther up and down the river. The wind, animals, and the hard stream verge could explain the lack of footprints, but a vehicle track would last for years in these conditions. It was one of the many reasons why visitors had to stay on the roads.

"Where's the vehicle?" he asked.

"He'll have got stuck in the dunes and tried to walk out," Andries replied.

Bongani turned back to the body. The lengthening afternoon sun highlighted the dunes and concentrated his attention. "Wouldn't he follow his vehicle tracks back to the road?" he asked.

"No, man, he'd realize that this stream would join the Naledi farther down—nearer the camp—and take the short cut. You'd be three miles at least from the road up there," said Andries, waving vaguely upstream, "and you'd be climbing up and down through the dunes all the way."

Bongani grimaced and turned to stare at Andries. "So let's see. Your tourist has too much to drink and sets off into the dunes, probably in an unsuitable vehicle—by himself, since no one reports him missing. He gets stuck and then has enough knowledge of the local geography to realize that following the watercourse will be the easy way back to camp. However, he doesn't realize how much dangerous game he may encounter in the river. And, by the way, he's working on his suntan at the same time, because he sets off naked."

Andries looked down. "What makes you think he was naked?" he asked, ignoring the rest.

"Well, do you see any cloth scraps? The animals wouldn't eat them, certainly not with bone and bits of sinew still left. And what about shoes? Animals won't eat those either." Bongani continued to watch the changing light on the sand dunes while Andries silently digested this new challenge.

A Carrion Death
Introducing Detective Kubu
. Copyright © by Michael Stanley. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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A Carrion Death 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
macabr More than 1 year ago
A CARRION DEATH is a big story, filled with interesting characters, more than a few mysteries, and immersion for the reader into the country and culture of Botswana. It also gives us Assistant Superintendent David Bengu, known to all as Kubu, hippopotamus. Kubu is one of the best characters in fiction. He loves his wife, his country and its culture, wine, his job, his dog, and opera. He is a 21st century man, dealing with 21st century crimes that are the result of motives as old as mankind. The story opens with the discovery of the partially eaten body of a white man by Kalahari game wardens. The condition of the body suggests that it has not only been attacked by animals acting according to their nature but also by humans acting against their's. Missing teeth and severed limbs are the work of those who want to prevent this man from being identified. As the story progresses so does the body count. People are missing and questions arise about identities. What was thought to be a murder might not be and what was determined to be an accident in nature was probably not. And at the end of it all is a villain motivated by at least four of the seven deadly sins: pride, anger, greed, and jealousy. Michael Stanley (Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip) have written a saga. It is a mystery and a cultural education. The characters are people we want to meet again.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Near a waterhole in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana, game rangers Andries and Bongani find the partial human remains as the best cleaners of a crime scene, hyenas were not quite finished devouring the corpse. The rangers collected enough evidence to make the case that a homicide not a tragic accident occurred. --- Botswana Criminal Investigation Department Assistant Superintendent David 'Kubu' Bengu leads the investigation. As Kubu follows clues partially concealed by local superstition and more so by powerful killers with high level contacts intent on hiding the crime and much more, he mimics the 'hippopotamus' that he is nicknamed for as he calmly but resolutely makes inquiries. With Mozart and other classical greats to entertain him as he drives the dusty roads, Kubu risks his life from those who will kill anyone including a persistent detective¿s loved ones to keep the truth from surfacing. --- The police procedural story line is superb with a strong obstinate hero however the tale belongs to the insightful look at Botswana, a landlocked South African presidential representative democratic republic. The action-packed story line brings to life the people and cultures of a country struggling to avoid the problems besetting many of their neighbors to include tribal rivalries, government corruption, and avaricious poachers and smugglers ripping off the natural resources. The author team Michael Stanley provides the excellent debut of a police detective and readers will clamor for more investigations by this lover of the Magic Flute. --- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Highly recommend this unique, entertaining, and well-crafted look into African life. Unforgettable characters.
TheReadingWriter More than 1 year ago
Michael Stanley is actually two authors. It must be a wonderful experience--wonderfully difficult, wonderfully rewarding--to work so closely with someone as on a work of fiction. A Carrion Death is the first of their attempts and they succeed, if not unequivocably. The mysteries are set in Botswana, and I am infinitely grateful that listening to Lisette Lecat read Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series has allowed the unusual city names to roll off my tongue like a native. Molepolole, Mochudi, Gabarone seem familiar to me now, but I'm glad they included the map in the front of the book. I adore mystery series where the deaths are not gruesome and the investigators are civilized. A little bit of moral ambiguity, a few philosophical dilemmas, a human fraility or two, and voila! I am entranced. But I did feel a formula at work here. I look forward to the second in the series to see if the authors managed to set themselves free.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the locale and the characters. Very entertaining.
PearlMM More than 1 year ago
I bought this book because I like books about Africa and also like the Ladies Detective series set in Africa. This, in comparison, wasn't quite as interesting as to the characters involved. It was still interesting though and I would recommend it to anyone who likes the Alexander McCall Smith detective series.
cmbohn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A corpse is discovered near a wilderness camp, after the hyenas have been at it. There's not a lot left, but there's enough to tell that the man was murdered and his body left for scavengers. The police are called in.Inspector David Bengu received the nickname of Kubu as a young man, which means hippo in Setswana. It's not a bad name - he's big, apparently genial, but dangerous when provoked. He's an extremely well developed and likable character. He's also a dogged detective, which is a good thing, because this case is about as complicated as it could be.And that was my main complaint about the book. While I liked the main character, found the mystery interesting, loved the setting, really, it was just too complicated. The bodies sure piled up and there were plenty of suspects. Everyone has something to hide. But in the end, I wasn't entirely sure what had happened or why. I did get a sense of the killer and the victim, but it just felt like there were an awful lot of holes left. I'm not sure it all tied together. But I did enjoy it, and I will read more by this author. I actually read the second book, The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu, first, but that didn't really make much difference. 3.5 starsWarning: This is not an entirely clean read - there is a sex scene early in the book, but it was easily skipped over. Still, if you are offended by that, you might want to skip the book.
punxsygal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another tale of Botswana, but not the warm fuzzy of Alexander McCall Smith's books. This a new book that appears to be the start of a series with Detective David "Kubu" Bengu--"Kubu" is Setswana for hippopotamus, a seemingly docile creature, but one of the deadliest on the continent. Detective Bengu follows a blood-soaked trail from the dried out riverbeds of the Kalahari to the office of an international conglomerate. And the bodies pile up.
jamespurcell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good first mystery. Interesting locale and characters.
Scrabblenut on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As a fan of Alexander McCall-Smith's gentle mystery series set in Botswana, I was interested to pick up this new murder mystery also set in Botswana. The police detective is also of "traditional" size, and it was interesting to get another perspective on the country and it's neighbours. The book took a little while to get in to, and I found the flashbacks were a bit intrusive, but I stuck with it, and found that the flashbacks did not give away the whole story as I at first thought. There were many surprises left to come, and I did enjoy the book, the characters and African setting.
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