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by Nick Brownlee
Piatkus, December 2008
336 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 0749928840

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Jake Moore, having left the Flying Squad in England after being shot, ends up running a game fishing business just outside Mombasa, Kenya. With the business in dire financial straits, however, the last thing that Jake expects is to be drawn into a case involving murder, corruption and much more. Working with a Mombasa detective, Daniel Jouma, Jake realizes that the case involves even those close to him. Will he able to keep his head above water?

Detective novels with Africa as their backdrop have yet to get off the ground, in spite of the success of Alexander McCall Smith’s novels set in Botswana. Brownlee forsakes vast quantities of forensic detail and police procedures in this novel, going to the heart of the story through characters and setting. Mombasa is, of course, particularly original in that regard. We see the juxtaposition between extreme wealth and extreme poverty that is particularly apparent along the Kenyan coast, where slums almost rub shoulders with luxury villas owned by rich immigrants. We also see the corruption that has become all too apparent in all walks of daily Kenyan life – from politics to the police.

Brownlee has said that he wished to create an adventure story, which he has certainly done. From his vicious opening scene, the action is fast and fluid throughout. Some of his characters do not, at times, ring true and appear rather forced or even stereotypical – racist South African ex-army types, for example, are one such hackneyed cliché. That said, however, the characters make for good reading and an exciting tale, coming alive with ease. The writing is accessible and I could well imagine the novel making the transition to the big screen.

As a resident of Kenya myself, the locations and the various references, for example to the post-election violence that swept across the country in late 2007 and early 2008, were things with which I could easily identify and made the novel all the more real. Mixing violence, glamour, wealth and poverty, BAIT is an extremely interesting novel and makes a welcome change to the libraries of thrillers set in the United Kingdom or the United States.

Reviewed by Luke Croll, December 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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