Wahala

Nikki May. Custom House, $27.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-308424-7

In May’s breezy if overdramatic debut, the mutual friendship of three Anglo-Nigerian women is threatened by an interloper, a Russian Nigerian on a revenge trip. Isobel Adams holds a particular grudge against each of the successful and ambitious women who have been best friends for 17 years. There’s Boo, one of the numerous children Isobel’s father had with multiple women; Ronke Tinubu, the daughter of the man who had an affair with Isobel’s mother, and who now dates the man Isobel wants; and Simi, Isobel’s friend since they were five years old, who describes Isobel in a conversation with the others as “embarrassingly rich,” and whose father has been in a longtime feud with Isobel’s. May’s characters, despite all their accomplishments and intelligence—Ronke is a dentist, Boo has a PhD in bioinformatics, and Simi works as a brand executive for a fashion house—are easily taken in by Isobel, due to Isobel’s willingness to help open doors for them. After Isobel manipulates her way into the trio’s lives, someone in their orbit winds up violently killed. While some of Isobel’s destructive behavior is outlandishly implausible, May’s nuanced exploration of race and gender makes this refreshing. This will leave readers intrigued to see what May does next. (Jan.)
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