NIGERIANS IN SPACE by Deji Bryce Olukotun

You may recall that I have stated my intention to widen my reading horizons by reading authors from countries other than the US and England.  To that end, so far I have enjoyed books by Chinese authors, Japanese, Egyptian, Pakistan, Israel, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Ireland, Scotland,  several Central and South American countries, Spain, and oh crumb, a few more that I have forgotten.  I think Iceland.

So, after having recently read  Spaceman of Bohemia, which you can read about here,  when my Dearly Beloved recommended Nigerians in Space, written by Nigerian Deji Bryce Olukotun, as you can imagine, I was IN.

OK, turns out this was not a science fiction book, despite its title.  There are no Nigerians in space, only a bunch of Nigerian scientists who WANT to be in space. In fact, the author, although Nigerian, grew up in Hopewell New Jersey, for pity’s sake.  hahahaha

But in spite of all that, and feeling slightly scammed as if a Nigerian prince wanted my bank number in order to send me even MORE money, it turned out to be a really good book.  Here’s the official plot description:

1993. Houston. Dr. Wale Olufunmi, lunar rock geologist, has a life most Nigerian immigrants would kill for, but then most Nigerians aren’t Wale—-a great scientific mind in exile with galactic ambitions. Then comes an outlandish order: steal a piece of the moon. With both personal and national glory at stake, Wale manages to pull off the near impossible, setting out on a journey back to Nigeria that leads anywhere but home. Compelled by Wale’s impulsive act, Nigerians traces arcs in time and space from Houston to Stockholm, from Cape Town to Bulawayo, picking up on the intersecting lives of a South African abalone smuggler, a freedom fighter’s young daughter, and Wale’s own ambitious son. Deji Bryce Olukotun’s debut novel defies categorization—-a story of international intrigue that tackles deeper questions about exile, identity, and the need to answer an elusive question: what exactly is brain gain?”

I will clarify this a bit.  Yeah, it does pretty much defy categorization, but I would tag it as a thriller, with maybe just the teeniest bit of paranormal tossed in for flavor.  An Nigerian political activist named Bello creates a program which he calls Brain Gain, that instead of all the best intelligences in the country leaving for a better scientific and academic life elsewhere, they would be lured back into the country with a promise of a space program.  Wale, the main protagonist, desperately wants to be an astronaut to the moon.  Each scientist,  located all over the globe, is given a task of stealing something important in their individual fields, as an act of commitment to the project.  They are promised plane tickets to Nigeria, where most have not been for decades, and a safe house, just in case, in South Africa.

Wale steals some scientifically unimportant moon dust from NASA, grabs his family and hotfoots it to the airport where he is supposed to meet Bello, who is a no show.  He then drags his family to Stockholm to contact another scientist in the secret program, only to find him murdered in his apartment.  This is where this odd story turns into a thriller.

There are three threads, one other following the daughter of a disappeared freedom fighter living in the Sudan, whom Bello had contacted to join the program, which daughter spends the rest of her life trying to find her father, and the third thread is that of a Cape Town abalone smuggler who gets involved with a dangerous smuggling gang.   As the story moves from 1993 to present, Wale’s son is now twenty, trying to sell a high tech lamp he has created, where he comes in contact with the abalone guy, the daughter finds Wale, the last scientist of that group who has not been assassinated, and ….

OK, that’s enough. You want to know more?  Go read it.    It was a great read, and there is a sequel, After the Flare, in which, as the plot description tells us, Nigeria finally has its space program and Wale arrives to be part of it.

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DEMIURGE-Blood of the Innocent by Michael R. Hagan

The law of averages dictate, with all the baseless predictions and educated guesses made throughout mankind’s recorded existence, some of these will have proven accurate, many others quite the opposite.  There have however  been examples of auguries or predictions which transpired to be uncannily accurate, describing events and unfolding consequences in such detail, the last remaining defense for any skeptic is the classic, vaticinatio post eventum*…. That they were in fact fraudulently created after the incidents described took place.”

This is one of those mashups of detective mystery, paranormal spirit/demon/god story, The DaVinci Code tale, thriller, archeologically-based plot that partners a somewhat loose cannon homicide detective who has some kind of special foresight or insight abilities, with a respected archeologist working in a dig in Iran, against an entity which we are not sure until the end is a demon, a god, THE god, some universal force, or what.  But this entity believes that mankind has ruined everything and the only way to cure the world is by spilling the blood of the innocent.  This entity has fathered a son with a Nigerian virgin teenager, who dies in childbirth.  The child is found to have some kind of crazy special abilities, such as curing ailments, wounds and injuries, and special foreknowledge.

Yeah, see what I mean?

The detective is called to a murder scene where an entire family has been brutally murdered and placed at their dining room table set as if for a party.  Fingerprints reveal the perpetrator to be a resident of a local psychiatric institute.  Also a resident at this institute is a former preacher, who is now apparently in thrall to the entity, and has as his life’s mission to kill the special boy.  The baby born to the teenage mother, who is now 9 years old),  has been placed in an obscure group foster home for his safety.

The archeologist and his team at last uncover a buried room in a cave in Iran which has cuneform symbols all around it making predictions.  And those same strange symbols were found painted in blood at the murder scene.  An attempt to learn their meaning is what brings together the archeologist and the detective.

The idea is that the entity inserted himself into various places and situations during the growth of civilization in order to create the events that were prophesied.   So we bounce around in the book between the archeological dig, the homicide investigation, the growing problem of protecting the boy, and flashbacks to the entity’s efforts throughout the ages.

As one reviewer put it, “Very Dark, very gnostic, very intense.”   And another calls it a horror thriller with pseudo-mystical trappings that the author outlines in a broad-brush introduction of the ancient myths.”   Yeah, that pretty much covers it.

*or Vaticinium ex eventu,   “prophecy from the event”),  a technical theological or historiographical term referring to a prophecy written after the author already had information about the events being “foretold”. The text is written so as to appear that the prophecy had taken place before the event, when in fact it was written after the events supposedly predicted. Vaticinium ex eventu is a form of hindsight bias.

DECEPTIVE CADENCE by Kathryn guare

This is the first of The Virtuosic Spy series, and features, of all things, a reluctant Irish violin player who is sucked into spying for the M6, which is the British spy  counterpart of the US CIA organization.

Our grudging protagonist is from a farm family in Ireland.  He has become a successful violinist playing with the Dublin Symphony Orchestra, and loves his life.  He has an older brother, who loved the farm.  But he somehow got himself into a financial mess by applying for some government grant and squandering it.  He then disappears completely.  Our boy, Connor, is forced to return to the farm and his ailing mother, to work the farm and pay off the debt, thereby giving up the career he loved.

He is approached by a dapper fellow who tells him that he is with M6 and wants to recruit Connor to go to India to find his brother, whom they are sure is a kingpin in a money laundering activity there, find him and turn him over to the government.

Well, the whole thing turns into a spy vs. spy thing, with lots of various government thumbs in a lots of various legal and illegal pies.  A great spy thriller, with lots of twists and turns.  And you will love that he uses an obscure classical piece of music as an almost unbreakable password.  Because who would think of that, right?

Really well written, and guess what ….. by a woman, no less!  Who says women can’t write international spy thrillers.

So I bet you are wondering about the title, Deceptive Cadence, aren’t you.  Sure you were.  It comes from the  musical term for a chord progression where the dominant chord is followed by a chord other than the tonic chord  — usually the sixth chord or superdominant chord or submediant chord (V-VI), but sometimes something else.  In other words, for us music-theory-challenged folks, it is not followed by what our ear is expecting …. a resolution to the chord progression…. but by something unexpected, which does not resolve the progression, but sets it off in new directions.

You can see how much I love you because I dug this out for you so that you didn’t have to do it yourselves.   

FLINDER’S FIELD by D. M. Mitchell

flinders-fieldSomething of a thriller, although to be honest with you, I am not exactly sure what the definition of a thriller is.  I really have to look that up.  Be right back.   Ok, I’m back.  Wiki says “ Thrillers are characterized and defined by the moods they elicit, giving viewers heightened feelings of suspense, excitement, surprise, anticipation and anxiety.”   OK, so I am right.  Something of a thriller.

An unsuccessful writer of thrillers, dark and violent books, living in London, gets a call that his father has passed away.  He is from a little village in the southwest of England, and it is 5 days before he can bring himself to go back the village that was his childhood home, where he had no friends, and was convinced his father and mother hated him, because his mother almost died giving birth to him.  His older sister also seems to hate him, and so we can understand why he was reluctant.

When he was a child, he had a friend one summer, until the parents on both sides forbid their boys to play with each other.  That autumn, the other family left, and our writer grew up alone and friendless with his parents and older sister.

When he returns all those years later, he notices that the old homestead of that long ago family has been revitalized, and a garden nursery established on its grounds.  He learns that his old friend is now back, along with his sister.  Our writer goes to visit, and thus starts a chain of events that all fans of Gone Girl will appreciate.

You know how the descriptions say, ‘But things were not as they seemed.’?  Well, in Flinder’s Field, things are exactly as they seem …. right up until they aren’t.

I really liked this book and I know you will too.  Put it on your list of books to be read before you get senile.

senile

THE DEMON AND THE CITY by Liz Williams

demon and the cityThis is the second of the Detective Chen books, set in some future sci fi-ish Singapore III.  You may remember I talked about the first book in the series, Snake Agent, here.   I recommend you go read that review because it gives you a lot of background that I am not going to repeat here.

The landscape in this book is filled with temples and places of Chinese mythology, and just chock full of Chinese dieties, demons, and metaphysical places, like Hell, and a boring Heaven, and Dogtown, which seems somewhat like a purgatory.

Detective Chen works with a Hellkind, a demon assigned to him from the Vice Squad of Hell, and in this story, they get themselves involved with a creature who looks like a woman but is actually some kind of catlike being who is on her way to being the richest person in the city.  She has her lab working on altering celestial beings she has captured, and it all gets really crazy.  She wants to take over Hell and Heaven as well.  Talk about ambition!

It involves a dowser, not for water, but who dowses for the meridian lines, the energy lines crisscrossing the city.  His patron goddess was once a human and has become a bovine personage, but is beginning to lose her power, and finally turns into a placid cow.

No, really.  I don’t make this stuff up.  Liz Williams did.

So it is more of a fantasy thriller than a mystery, and a lot of fun, and goofy, and a world you cannot possibly ever imagine living in. But I want the tea kettle/badger who lives with Detective Chen.  If I remember correctly, it was a demon or something that got stuck in a spell and now spends its life in this altered state, traveling around with the Detective and helping out.  You would be surprised how much a tea kettle/badger can do in the way of spying and biting enemies.  Really.  Almost as good as a pit bull.

 

CROOKED MAN by Tony Dunbar

crooked manThis is the first in the series about Tubby Dubonnet, a lawyer in New Orleans.  I had read one much further on in the series, Crime Czar,  without realizing I had the first in the series in my To Be Reads.  I don’t know how that happened.  I grab them when they are free on Amazon.  Beats me.

Tubby is a likable guy, if a bit of a drinker, although he does have an unbreakable rule of never appearing before a judge unless absolutely sober, so he has that going for him.

He has a partner, Reggie.  The two of them met up in law school.  Reggie is the wheeler dealer, brings in clients.  Tubby is the nuts and bolts guy, goes to court, etc.

In this first case, Reggie gets himself involved in a very nefarious deal, and as the British say, it all goes pear shaped.  A smallish-time drug runner, Darryl Alvarez, the manager of a local nightclub, has been caught unloading fifteen bales of marijuana from a shrimp boat.  Oops.  He is caught before he can turn over the payment for said MaryJane, which his girlfriend is holding in a separate vehicle, to the deliverer.  After being released on bail, he comes to Tubby’s office and gives him a gym bag full of money.  Lots of money.  The very money he was to have paid to the deliverer of the weed. 

Now the owner/deliverer of the weed wants his money, and sends his enforcers everywhere looking for it.  In a sad reversal of fortune, Tubby learns that his partner was in on the deal and is about to kill Tubby in a deserted construction site in order to get that bag of money.  Needless to say, he does not succeed, as there are many more books in this series. 

This is a fun noir-ish book, with lots of other interesting things going on.  For instance, his clients are all — shall we say — eccentric, including a transvestite entertainer with curious medical issues, a buxom deadbeat blonde, a doctor who refers his own patients to a malpractice lawyer, and the driver of a Mardi Gras float shaped like a giant crawfish pot.   Yeah, definitely a fun guy and an enjoyable read. 

So, mystery, thriller-lite, and a delightful look at life in New Orleans.

 

 

TAKE TWO AND CALL ME IN THE MORGUE by D. W. Ulsterman

take twoOne of the things I like about mysteries/detective stories are the clever titles and how they relate to the themes of the books.  For instance, this one is about experimental cancer cures.   What can I say – I am easily amused by the small pleasures in life.

This is a Bennington, P.I. book, the second in a four-book series.  Set in D.C., it features an overweight, over-age former political operative who is no longer operating politically, and has been working on being a P.I.  He has begun working for some organization that exists to ummm — you know, I really must start paying closer attention to these kinds of details.  The problem is, anything having to do with Washington, politics, conspiracies and plots involving Big Pharama, politicians and billionaires makes the hum in my ho hum drone so  much louder that it puts me to sleep.

But it is a good guy kind of secretish organization headed or created by a nifty grandmotherly senator with a soul of titanium.  You don’t mess with Grandmother Nature.  Nosireebob.   His new assignment involves a priest who is a doctor who is working on experimental cancer cures.  And the gun.  I don’t think I mentioned that the priest carries a gun.  Not like the Father Flannagan of Boys Town that comes to mind, is he.

Bennington’s immediate superior in the organization has cancer, and has been receiving the new experimental treatments which are very effective.  However, suddenly, the priest/doctor is thrown out of the hospital and not permitted to continue the treatments.  Bennington makes contact with one of the old politicos he knows from days of yore, in an attempt to find out who is behind this whole cancer treatment industry.   Not surprisingly, this guy turns out to be a real nasty piece of work.

So like I hinted, Big Pharma is involved, money — lots of money, and another really fun character, a strange person who used to work alongside of the priest/doctor and who mysteriously disappears and reappears, in the nick of time, whew, and all in all, a pretty good mystery and read.

OK, not so much a mystery as a political crime thriller kind of deal. You know, blood, gore, dead bodies, guns, all the things that make life worthwhile.