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Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Review: Black Star Nairobi, Mukoma wa Ngugi (Kenya)

Title: Black Star Nairobi
Author: Mukoma wa Ngugi
Publication: 2013/Brooklyn, New York: Melville House Publishing
ISBN #: 978-1-61219-210-9
# of pages: 267
Discovered by scanning all the shelves at a bookstore, looking for new authors
Read in paper format
Also available in e-book format
Link to author’s website: Mukoma wa Ngugi

For the past three years, Ishmael and Odhiambo, known simply as O, have operated the Black Star detective agency. Fortunately O is still a police officer and his boss Hassan tosses them the odd case, which is keeping them in business. This latest case is very odd, the decomposing body of an African-American killed execution style and left to rot in Ngong Forest near Nairobi. As a displaced African-American, this hits close to home for Ishmael. Their investigation has barely begun when their world is an explosion at the Norfolk Hotel. Ishmael strongly believes the incidents are connected so they set out to see what is happening at the hotel.

Ethnic tension bubbles just below the surface in Kenya as the 2007 elections are about to be held. Some Americans...and many Kenyans...were killed at the hotel so fears of Al-Qaeda involvement are running rampant, bringing the CIA into the picture. Ishmael and O are told to back off, which only makes them more curious.

Their investigation quickly takes an ugly turn and they no longer know whom to trust. Muddy, Rwandan genocide survivor and Ishmael’s girlfriend, soon joins their quest for the truth.

This turned out to be more thriller than murder mystery. The Kenyan election backdrop was very interesting, a taste of how quickly a country can disintegrate into violence. The three main characters are strong ones and you soon want to know more about each of their backgrounds. I would like to read the first book in the series to learn how Ishmael ended up in Kenya. The book does go bit astray about halfway through and the plot becomes more convoluted than necessary. However, the story and the lead characters carry the reader through to the end.

Rating: (°_°)             Worth reading

Notable sentence:  “Pulled in to this vortex of violence and more violence, my principles of justice were becoming rudimentary – us against them.”

Author wa Ngugi was born in the USA but grew up in Kenya. In addition to the first mystery in this series “Nairobi Heat”, he has also written poetry, fiction and non-fiction books, political columns and essays. He is an Assistant Professor of English at Cornell University and his father is a renowned African author.  



  1. I think lots of thrillers have convoluted plots, but I thought this one was pretty good. Alan Glynn writes very good global conspiracy thrillers.

    1. Thanks for another "new to me" author, Rebecca! Haven't run across Alan Glynn before.

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