The Boy Who Stole the Leopard’s Spots

Tamar Myers. Morrow, $14.99 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-199773-0

A weak story line hobbles Myers’s third mystery set in 1950s Belgian Congo (after 2011’s The Headhunter’s Daughter), though the author makes good use of her personal knowledge of the country, where she grew up. The action alternates between 1935, when two children prepare to practice “the ancient custom of cannibalism,” and 1958, where the police chief of Belle Vue, Pierre Jardin, has a murder to solve. That killing follows a dispute between Lazarus Chigger Mite and Jonathan Pimple, two villagers, about the ownership of a goat that belonged to Pimple before it was swallowed by a python killed by Mite. Myers signals how past and present intersect early on, eliminating some of the surprise impact. Efforts to inject farce into the drama don’t always succeed, and Kwei Quartey and others have better portrayed the collision of superstition and modernity. Agent: Nancy Yost, Nancy Yost Literary Agency. (May)