Nick Brownlee - Bait (4 stars)

Nick Brownlee - Bait



In the opening scene of this high-octane crime debut, a victim is eviscerated on a boat while still alive, his steaming innards and gutted body tossed overboard. Welcome to the flipside of African crime fiction where instead of Precious Ramotswe sipping tea in Botswana we have a modern Kenya full of drugs, guns, poverty, prostitution, sex traffickers, evil crime lords, maniacal former South African army men and corrupt police and officials at every turn.

Into this dust storm comes Jake, a washed-up British ex-cop running game fishing trips, and Jouma, seemingly the only Mombasa detective not in the pocket of the bad guys. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about Nick Brownlee’s accomplished debut, but it’s executed with an energy and vigour lacking in much crime fiction. Vividly depicting a society on the verge of collapse and the struggle of the few to hold on to decent values amidst mayhem, it’s a brutal but undeniably thrilling ride.

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