By Mukoma Wa Ngugi
(Melville International Crime, Paperback, 9781935554646, 208pp.)
Publication Date: September 13, 2011
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A cop from Wisconsin pursues a killer through the terrifying slums of Nairobi and the memories of genocide
IN MADISON, WISCONSIN, it’s a big deal when African peace activist Joshua Hakizimana—who saved hundreds of people from the Rwandan genocide—accepts a position at the university to teach about “genocide and testimony.” Then a young woman is found murdered on his doorstep.
Local police Detective Ishmael—an African-American in an “extremely white” town—suspects the crime is racially motivated; the Ku Klux Klan still holds rallies there, after all. But then he gets a mysterious phone call: “If you want the truth, you must go to its source. The truth is in the past. Come to Nairobi.”
It’s the beginning of a journey that will take him to a place still vibrating from the genocide that happened around its borders, where violence is a part of everyday life, where big-oil money rules and where the local cops shoot first and ask questions later—a place, in short, where knowing the truth about history can get you killed.
MUKOMA WA NGUGI is a novelist and poet, whose books include the novel Nairobi Heat and the poetry collection Hurling Words at Consciousness. He was short listed for the Caine Prize for African writing in 2009 and for the 2010 Penguin Prize for African Writing.
His columns have appeared in the Guardian, International Herald Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times, and he has been a guest on Democracy Now, Al Jazeera, and the BBC World Service. His stories and poetry have been published in the Kenyon Review, Kwani!, Chimurenga and Tin House Magazine, among other places.
Mukoma was born in 1971 in Evanston, Illinois and grew up in Kenya before returning to the United States for his undergraduate and graduate education. He is currently a professor of English at Cornell University.
"Nairobi Heat takes us to Kenya with a refreshing authority... Besides the usual fun and thrill of crime novels, what makes the book a delicious read is that it’s also packed with engaged and relevant social commentary."
—The New York Times
"If you're weary of the glut of Scandinavian crime fiction, take a trip to Kenya's teeming capital city. " —The New York Post
"A fast-paced hard-boiled crime novel... We suggest you pick up a copy if you know what's good for you." —Flavorwire
"Just as the works of James Ellroy and Carl Hiaasen dig beneath the glitter of Hollywood and South Beach, respectively, to reveal a nasty, fetid underside, [Nairobi Heat] rips away images of the Sahara and safaris and goes beyond nightly news pictures of deprivation."—The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"Ishmael Fofona, Ngugi's detective, may not as yet have taken over from Kurt Wallander in our affections, but I'm hoping it's only a matter of time."—The Telegraph (UK)
"Sizzling...an action-packed cross-cultural ride, crackling with detail garnered from the author's experience reporting on the African communities in which this story is set." —Barnes & Noble Review
"An engaging insider's view of the cultural divide between Americans and Africans." —Publishers Weekly
“Ngugi’s ability to weave a complex narrative, which connects crime and racial tensions in the US to an in-depth knowledge of Kenya and its nuances, to Rwanda and its genocide past within this African crime thriller, is nothing but the work of a genius craftsman and wordsmith.”—New African Magazine
“Nairobi Heat’s biggest triumph is the way it forces us to re-examine accepted narratives and received truths.”—The Mail & Guardian (South Africa)
"[A] welcome discovery."—mysteryplaces.net