Black Star Nairobi by Mukoma wa Ngugi

book coverBlack Star Nairobi is the second in series pairing Ishmael Fofona, erstwhile Madison, WI cop and David Odhiambo, ex-detective with the Criminal Investigation Department in Nairobi. Notice the “former” designations. At the end of the first novel in the series, Ishmael decided to leave Madison for Nairobi and, together with O(dhimabo), set up the Black Star detective agency. The reference to the Black Star Line of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, a vocal advovate of the “back to Africa” movement among African-Americans in the early part of the 19th century seems both tongue-in-cheek and serious. Ishmael more than once confronts the in-between feeling of living in Kenya while being US-American.

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Black Cherry Blues by James Lee Burke

Black Cherry Blues cover Black Cherry Blues is the third Dave Robicheaux novel and the second one I read. It starts out in the bayou of southern Louisiana. Rob is still recovering from the murder of his wife some time earlier. He’s quit his law enforcement jobs and runs a fish and tackle business way out in the sticks. His biggest concern is his adopted child Alafair (not by coincident Burke’s real life daughter who’s also a mystery writer).

An old roommate, once famous now fallen on hard times musician Lee Pugh, visits to enlist Robicheaux’s help. He’s overheard a conversation between two colleagues discussing a murder. Robicheaux isn’t interested, but after Lee begs him for help he intercedes with the employers of the two men. Next thing he knows, the two men threaten Alafair.

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Nairobi Heat by Mukoma Wa Ngugi

Nairobi Heat coverA dead white woman is found outside Joshua Hakizimana’s house. Joshua is a bit of a celebrity. During the Rwandan genocide he was headmaster of a school, which he turned into a safe haven for Tutsis. The genocidaires respected him because they were his former students. Joshua is the public face of the Never Again Foundation which receives support from many people, some famous, others not.

The case lands in the lap of Ishmael, a black detective in a very white town, Madison, WI. The leads peter out quickly, the racial dimensions take over, the black police chief is under pressure to produce result. The Joshua’ fame doesn’t quite make up for the fact that he’s African and the victim was white and female.

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