Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Michael Stanley and the crime-fiction trinity

I roll my eyes when I see a crime novel called "plot-driven" or "character-driven." Plot, character, and setting are co-equal, consubstantial, and probably co-eternal as well. You wouldn't ask which of a three-legged table's legs was most important, would you? Lose one, any one, and there goes the good china.

I thought these elevated thoughts after reading Death of the Mantis, third and most recent of Michael Stanley's Detective Kubu mysteries. David "Kubu" Bengu, a police detective whose name means hippopotamus in the Setswana language of Botswana, is the star of the book. Deprived of interesting physical and human settings that include the Kalahari desert, however, Kubu might be nothing but an annoyingly cute collection of endearing traits. Without a compelling mystery (and Death of the Mantis had the "So that's why!"s bursting in my head for a good while after I finished reading), the book would be a travelogue with worthwhile bits, incapable, however, of sustaining its length.

So, yes, I enjoyed the Death of the Mantis, and I'm looking forward to having one of its authors on the panel I'll moderate at Bouchercon next month.  Among the novel's attractions is a note that explains, among other things, why the authors chose to use the term Bushmen for the indigenous people of southern Africa who figure prominently in the novel. Another is an excellent Alexander McCall Smith joke toward book's end.

Stanley Trollip is, with Michael Sears, the writing team of Michael Stanley. Trollip will be part of my "Murder is Everywhere" panel at Bouchercon 2012 next month in Cleveland, Saturday, October 6, 10:15-11:05 a.m. Stop in and say hi on your way to the West Side Market.

Here's the complete Bouchercon schedule.
© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Anonymous Linkmeister said...

For a wonder, my library has this book. Good thing, since I have no "new book" bookstore within 15 miles of me after the demise of Borders.

Anyway, I requested it, so I'll look for the explanation of "Bushmen."

September 15, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The explanation is to the effect that while some people consider Bushman derogatory, other terms may be objectionable on similar grounds. The source of the derogation in those cases might surprise some readers.

September 15, 2012  

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