I’m David Bengu, assistant superintendent in the Botswana Police’s Criminal Investigation Department. But everyone calls me Kubu. It’s a nickname I got at school from a white boy called Angus. I told him my name was David, but he just laughed and said I wasn’t a David but a Kubu. I’ve always been a bit, shall we say, on the heavy side, and since Kubu means hippopotamus in my home language, I wasn’t very pleased. But he said hippos are also very focussed and can be very dangerous – which is true – so it gave me status. Pretty soon everyone was calling me Kubu and I got used to it. Angus and I became good friends.
So call me Kubu.
It was another school friend who was responsible for me becoming a detective. He was a Bushman, one of the small brown nomadic people of the Kalahari, and he took me a short way into the desert and taught me how to see things that others missed. He drew a ring in the sand and asked me what was there. I said it was just sand and a few stones and bits of stick. But under the sand was a trapdoor spider, and the stones were actually succulent plants called Lithops. I learned that things hide, things pretend to be what they are not. And later I learned that people are like that too, but if you look hard enough, and dig carefully, you can see the Lithop and find the spider.
The main thing in my life is my family. I have a gorgeous wife, Joy, and two wonderful daughters, Tumi and Nono. Also a fox terrier called Ilia. And I have some hobbies. I love music – different types, but especially opera – and I actually have quite a good singing voice, if I say so myself. (Joy says I say it myself because no one else does.) Still, my main hobby is food and wine. Preferably good food and good wine. I’ve got broad tastes, and I’ll try anything once. Maybe several times just to be sure if I like it or not. But quantity is important too. I don’t want to get up from a meal hungry. Joy says feeling hungry is good for me, but how can that be? If you’re hungry, you need food. What could be more obvious than that?
Botswana is a big country with few people – less than two million – and not a lot of detectives. So sometimes we have to do things differently, and we get some pretty challenging cases. I’ve had several sticky ones since I became assistant superintendent. There was the body found in the bush being eaten by a hyena. Who was he and why had someone gone to such lengths to make it impossible to identify him? Then there was the man who was murdered up north on the Linyanti river. In that case we found out soon enough who he was, but that was only the start of the problems because he was recorded as having died many years before in the Zimbabwe bush war. A couple of years later a game ranger at the Mabuasehube game reserve was found dying at the bottom of a cliff surrounded by a group of Bushmen. Did he fall or was he pushed? Well, it turned out to be much worse than either of those. And it drew me into the issues of the Bushman people and how their culture is vanishing whether they like it or not.
But probably my most challenging case was about the witch doctor. To give credit to her, we might never have reached the bottom of that one if Samantha – our new and only female detective in the CID – hadn’t kept pushing. I’m a very modern sort of man especially by Botswana’s admittedly rather conservative standards, but Samantha couldn’t see that. She just kept pushing and shoving and ignoring my suggestions that she first learn the ropes and make a niche for herself. But she turned out to be right. There was a witch doctor out there kidnapping people – even children! – to use for his magic potions, muti as we call it here. And everyone was too scared of him to help. They even said he could make himself invisible. Everyone was scared. Except me, of course. He was hidden all right – like that trapdoor spider – but his web reached everywhere: into the police, into the parliament, and he knew how to use technology and how to play on people’s fears. And he was clever, too clever for us to catch even when I deduced who he actually was. But in the end we found a way.
Well, look I’ve really enjoyed telling you about myself, but it’s getting on for lunchtime. I don’t believe in being late for meals. It’s not good for you. I think I’m going to visit the Caravela restaurant here in Gaborone and have their excellent rump steak, medium rare. With French fries. And a salad, of course. Joy says one should have a salad for lunch if one wants to lose weight. I’d never dream of contradicting my wife.
Michael is giving away one (1) signed first edition hard cover of their first book, A CARRION DEATH. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. The book will be shipped directly from the author. Contest ends June 15.
Meet the author
Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both have been professors and have worked in academia and business. Sears is a mathematician, specializing in remote sensing. Trollip is an educational psychologist, specializing in the application of computers to teaching and learning, and a pilot. They were both born in South Africa.
They have been on a number of flying safaris to Botswana and Zimbabwe, where it was always exciting to buzz a dirt airstrip to shoo the elephants off. They have had many adventures on these trips including tracking lions at night, fighting bush fires on the Savuti plains in northern Botswana, being charged by an elephant, and having their plane’s door pop open over the Kalahari, scattering navigation maps over the desert. These trips have fed their love both for the African bush, and for Botswana.
It was on one of these trips that the idea surfaced for a mystery set in Botswana. This led to their first novel A CARRION DEATH, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. Kubu’s second adventure was in the north of the country, bordering Zimbabwe with its checkered history. THE SECOND DEATH OF GOODLUCK TINUBU is published as DEADLY TRADE outside the US and Canada. Their third book DEATH OF THE MANTIS is set in the Kalahari and features the Bushman peoples of the area. It won the Barry award for best paperback original of 2011 and was shortlisted for an Edgar award. Their latest book DEADLY HARVEST is set against the pervasive belief in witchcraft in southern Africa. It has just been released.
Michael also blogs at Murder is Everywhere, a place where seven authors set their mysteries outside North America.
Books are available at retail and online booksellers.