This masterly third novel by Helon Habila, a former winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing and of the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book from the Africa Region, draws on the tradition of the classic detective novel but also operates on a deeper, metaphorical and philosophical level.
Habila could not have chosen a more serious or topical subject. The intricate and often deadly politics of oil in Nigeria, Africa's largest producer of petroleum, are inescapable. Writer Ken Saro-Wiwa's protest against the government's failure to enforce regulations on the prospecting foreign companies cost him his life in 1995. The oil industry has been associated with corruption, violence and bloodshed, wreaking ecological devastation on the Niger Delta region and its fishing and farming communities, which benefit little from the enormous profits involved, fuelling ethnic conflict and guerrilla activity. At the same time as local lives and livelihoods are constantly endangered, the kidnapping of foreigners for ransom has proliferated over the years, with opportunists vying with self-selected freedom fighters.
Rufus, the main protagonist of Habila's first-person narrative, is a keen young Nigerian reporter paired on a mission with his mentor, the legendary journalist Zaq, a man who, though now fallen from grace and alcohol-driven, still has wisdom to impart. They are pursuing what the ... Read Full Review