Dr. Phillip Taiwo has returned to Nigeria with his family after spending a good deal of time in the United States. As a lecturer at a university in Lagos, he is able to continue his studies as an investigative psychologist, but most of his case reports have been written from the comfort of his desk. He isn’t given this separation when Phillip is asked by a friend of his father’s to write a report on the murder of the man’s son and two other students in a southern border town. He’s reluctant, but knows he’ll be able to escape his wife’s possible infidelity in Lagos. Yet, when he arrives at Port Harcourt only to find the bulk of the townspeople is conspiring against him.
The town of Port Harcourt has known tension for many, many years. It started as a land dispute between the British and the local tribes, but now it mostly derives from the friction between the students at the nearby university and the townspeople who feel they are left with the dregs after the school is given so much federal funding. The crime is this: three young men, students from the university are accused of extorting another young man at his apartment off campus. The townspeople here the cries for help and, tired of dealing with thieves, resort to mob rule and burn the offenders to death. Phillip is unable to find a motive at first, but as he meets with the local police and the tribal chief (yep, they’re related), and hunts down witnesses, the case becomes more complex. It ultimately consumes Phillip and tests all the skills he has as an investigator, a husband, and a friend.
Lightseekers is the best kind of international mystery. An interesting central investigator, a consuming setting, and a history lesson that starts to answer questions about current conflicts. I do want to take a minute to let you know about the sidekick Phillip picks up. Loaned out as a ‘driver’ by Phillip’s employer, Chika has many other skills besides driving the 4×4 over the rough roads. Slight facial expressions tip Phillip off as to how to act in situations. Chika’s a well-written character whose secrets only create a deeper and more complex friend.
My only criticism of Lightseekers is that the pacing is a bit too even for me. The investigation ticks along, and while there are complications, it never made the hair stand up, or turn the pages any faster…
A very good debut with a character in Phillip who I could follow in a series of mysteries.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Thank you to NetGalley, Mulholland Books, and the author for an advanced copy for review.