Facets of Death by Michael Stanley #BookReview

Detective Kubu’s first case may also be his last…

Recruited straight from university to Botswana’s CID, David ‘Kubu’ Bengu has raised his colleagues’ suspicions with his meteoric rise within the department, and he has a lot to prove…

When the richest diamond mine in the world is robbed of 100,000 carats worth of gems, and then the thieves are killed, execution-style, Kubu leaps at the chance to prove himself. But where are the diamonds? And what role does a witch doctor and his son play?

Does this young detective have the skill – and integrity – to engineer an international trap? Or could it cost him everything, including his life…?

A riveting, chilling prequel to the award-winning Detective Kubu series, Facets of Death introduces the beloved Kubu and his richly described native Botswana, in a dark, sophisticated thriller that will leave you breathless.

I recently featured a fabulous extract from Facets of Death and am delighted to be sharing my review today. Many thanks to Michael Stanley and Orenda Books for my advance copy of the novel.

Prequels, particularly  thrillers are a tricky proposition; on the one hand it's intriguing to potentially discover more about what shaped an established character but on the other, the reader already knows that whatever happens here, the protagonist will live and depending on the series, go on to have a fulfilling, exciting career, risking a lowered sense of tension. It is true that I was never really concerned about Kubu's safety but others are at risk here, and as the body count rises following an audacious diamond heist, I was glued to the pages of this intricate thriller.
The young David 'Kubu' Bengu is refreshingly different from many older, often jaded fictional detectives. Fast-tracked into Botswana's CID, what he lacks in experience, he more than makes up for in enthusiasm. He is endearingly eager to please, even though his somewhat gauche manner obviously irritates some of his new colleagues. It quickly becomes apparent that although he isn't averse to making mistakes and still has much to learn, he is clearly a talented, perceptive detective.
He throws himself into investigating his first, puzzling case involving missing luggage but before long, a bold, violent heist presents him with the opportunity to really make his mark. Most of the book follows Kubu but there are scenes which reveal some of the actions of the diamond thieves, although the full truth isn't disclosed to readers until the case is finally solved.
The juxtaposition between the commercial side of the country with its vast diamond riches and the superstitious, fearful belief in witch doctors and dark curses is fascinating, especially when it becomes evident that even those in high-ranking positions are unsettled by animal skeletons left as a sinister warning. As always with a Michael Stanley novel, the vivid descriptions of Botswana are a treat and while the robbery brings Kubu into the presence of an undeniably dark and violent underbelly, the authors' clear affection for the country is captivating. 
The inevitable corruption isn't surprising but it's not obvious who is behind the theft and there are plenty of twists, turns and red herrings in this gripping thriller. Though very much an introduction to the central character, the wider cast is superbly rendered, allowing for suspicion to be spread widely. Meanwhile, his new workmates are given plenty of room to express themselves - I particularly liked Assistant Superintendent Mabuku, who after an inauspicious first impression, actually becomes a mentor figure to the young man   - and despite their appearance being relatively brief, his parents make a lasting impression on proceedings. Kubu and his colleagues are determined to uncover the truth but he still finds time to notice the younger Joy. Readers who are aware of what his future holds will love seeing where it all began. . 
Facets of Death is a wonderful introduction to this fabulous character and will be as enjoyable to those who already know him as a more long-serving detecting as it is to readers making his acquaintance for the first time. This Sunshine Noir series is one of the most distinctive in crime fiction and this prequel is a welcome addition. Highly recommended.

Facets of Death is published by Orenda Books. It can be purchased directly from Orenda's website, from all the usual online retailers or ask your local independent bookshop to order a copy for you.

About the Author
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 five, A Death in the Family, was an international bestseller. Their first standalone thriller, Dead of Night, was published in 2019.