Tail of the Blue Bird by Nii Awikwei Parkes
Vintage, London, 2010
I own this book and want to thank Stu of Winstonsdad’s Blog for introducing me to it and to Nii Ayikwei Parkes.
This mystery takes place in Ghana. It is a wonderful mix of traditional tale and modern police procedural, with a decidedly political edge.
In a hut in the village on Sonokrom the girlfriend of a political minister discovers some gristly remains. A police inspector sees a chance for advancement. Kayo, a young forensic pathologist, is commandeered from his job and, along with Garba, a police constable, is ordered to solve the case.
So there I was (thinking about my palm wine) when Kwadwo finished and took photos with his camera, asked Mansah to take the box that looked like the tea bottle back to Accra for further analysis and sent the other policeman, Garba, to ask Oduro how to dispose of the thing. This action that Kwadwo took made me see that the boy really has respect. As I said when I started telling this tale, what was in Kofi Atta’s hut was not meant to be seen without the right powers, and Oduro is the one who knows about these things…From page 69.
Kayo leaned forward now, closing the distance between himself and the hunter. His mind was racing. `So, the story you just told us. Is it true? Is that the story of Kofi Atta?’
Th hunter sighed. `That may be your story. I am not the one to tell you what is true. I am telling you a story. On this earth, we have to choose the story we tell, because it affects us – it affects how we live.’ From page 151.
Beautifully written, this mystery mixes traditional story-telling, “folk” medicine and spiritual beliefs with modern “C.S.I.” forensics. Tail of the Blue Bird also acknowledges the difficult choices asked of people living in a country ruled by graft and corruption. I loved it and hope that Parkes, a poet and commentator, decides to write a sequel.