My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Rose Hardie, known as "Mama Rose," and her invalid husband, Craig, live a quiet, retiring life in Nanyuki, Kenya, where she serves the surrounding communities as a volunteer para-veterinarian and all-around helping hand. They had lived a frugal, tight existence, but a happy one for the most part, since their early marriage when Rose was accused of killing a poacher and spending a week in the grim local prison.
One day after Craig left the house to work on the farm, leaving young Rose, her best friend, Aisha Onyango, and the house girl alone, a mob of men that had stormed their farm’s inner compound. Rose had discharged a shotgun in their general direction in self-defense, never intending to hit anyone but just to scare them away. However, a week after the incident, she is informed that she killed one of the supposed poachers, was arrested, thrown in prison, and interrogated unmercifully until Aisha, a budding attorney, managed to get the charges dropped. But afterward, their friendship was never the same. Aisha drifted away into a high-profile career in Nairobi, and Rose was left believing for the past 40-plus years that her dear friend was ashamed of her and her reckless actions that day.But now, out of the blue, Aisha and her family, two adult children, are back in Nanyuki and living nearby in Guinea Fowl Cottage. The two women immediately renew their acquaintance, but Rose can tell that Aisha is afraid of something and is back in Nanyuki because it is safer than staying in Nairobi. On top of that, Aisha is reopening the case against Rose that happened all those years ago. Before Aisha opens up about what is going on and why she is stirring up the old trouble, she is struck down in her home, and the local police are ordered off the case calling it an accidental death. At the urging of the police commissioner, Mama Rose and Aisha’s son, Thabiti, decide to uncover the truth of Aisha’s murder.
FOWL MURDER is the first book in a new cozy mystery series, the Kenya Kanga Mystery series, by author Victoria Tait, and features the amateur sleuthing abilities of 60-something “Mama Rose” Hardie, and her young friend (Aisha’s son), Thabiti Onyango. They are supported by other great characters such as the caught-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place police commissioner Akida, the mysterious Sam – the barman, and newcomer to Kenya, Chloe. The author has Rose feel her age and describes her aches, pains, and fatigue (she has arthritis), and this made her feel that much more real to me. In addition, like many wives of her age and at this stage of their lives, she’s also dealing with the gradual decline of an aging spouse. Again, this helped bring this character to life for me. I could relate and appreciated this realistic portrayal.The Kenyan setting with the descriptions of the beauty of Mount Kenya, the dryness of the surrounding area, and the consequences of the lack of rainfall were fascinating, as were the little details of everyday life there. The portrayal had me feeling the heat and dust and grit. I liked the sprinkling of Kiswahili words throughout and often referred to the helpful glossary explaining them at the end of the book.
“Mama Rose” is a keen observer of people and understands human nature. She is a well-known and well-liked member of the community, so people talk to her. She takes the various threads of information she gathers and weaves together the solution to the problems she’s investigating in a logical, straightforward way. There were a couple of good possible suspects to cross off the list, and her investigation took care of some of them while subsequent events eliminated others for her. The book was a gratifying reading experience.I recommend this book to cozy mystery readers in general but especially to those that have read and enjoyed the Alexander McCall Smith series, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. I look forward to more in series myself.
I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving a free copy from Reedsy Discovery.
See my original review on Reedsy Discovery!