cover image Hour of the Red God

Hour of the Red God

Richard Crompton. Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Sarah Crichton, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-374-17199-5

Former BBC journalist Crompton interweaves a complex whodunit plot with 2007 Kenyan politics in his spectacular fiction debut. Nairobi police detective Mollel, a single parent who lost his wife to the 1998 al-Qaeda bombing of the U.S. embassy, looks into the murder of a fellow Maasai tribe member, a woman whose genitals were freshly mutilated. Mollel’s less-than-honest boss, who quickly labels the victim a prostitute, directs him to wrap things up quickly. But the dogged Mollel follows the evidence wherever it leads him, even if it means stepping on the toes of the rich and powerful, including popular evangelist George Nalo, whose charitable organization, Orpheus House, works to get prostitutes off the streets. As a bitterly contested election nears, the pressure on the detective to let things be only increases. The surprising but fair-play solution to the mystery packs a wallop—and instantly elevates the author, now a Nairobi resident, to the first rank of African crime writers. (Apr.)