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Categories: Crime, Mystery, Thrillers and Suspense
Tags: africa, betrayal, CIA, espionage, family, female protagonist, government agent, historical fiction, international intrigue, mystery, political thriller, revenge, Robert Mugabe, suspense, Zimbabwe
Publisher: Manor Minor Press
Author: Darby G. Holladay
A story of international intrigue, of the ghosts of Africa’s history, of tangled family ties, of betrayal, revenge, and redemption, and of two people finding a new start. In 1983 Patrick Khumalo, a five-year-old boy out gathering firewood for his mother in rural Zimbabwe, is the only survivor of one of Robert Mugabe’s notorious Gukurahundi massacres. White Rhodesian settlers who live nearby take the traumatized child in and raise him with their own children. In 2012, Patrick is an archivist for Robert Mugabe’s government. Everyone knows him as the ideal public servant, removed from politics and passion. But Patrick has a secret life, into which he draws Constance, the impulsive, idealistic girl he grew up with, now a classical violinist living in Austria. On the other side of the world, in Washington, D.C., ex-Marine Joshua Denham is trying to find his feet in civilian life as a newly wealthy man with political aspirations. At an Austrian Embassy concert where his cousin Constance is performing, a woman who’s been haunting him for the past year—a private banker he last saw in Kyrgyzstan—sits down at the end of his row. Perhaps he’s found what he was looking for . . . but Devon isn’t quite what she seems. Constance is acting strangely, too. After she leaves abruptly for the airport, Joshua gets a desperate call from her estranged father, Roger: Constance is in trouble. Joshua flies to meet Roger in South Africa, only to find that Roger has his own dark secret. Devon finds herself drawn after them to an abandoned farmhouse in Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland District, and an explosive reckoning with the ghosts of the Rhodesian Bush War. The Lupane Legacy, the first in a series of novels of international suspense and intrigue, is a thriller for the thinking reader, a nuanced exploration of the history of postcolonial Africa as well as of Beltway politics and diplomacy. It’s a story of tangled family ties, of betrayal, revenge, and redemption, and of two people finding their way toward each other, and a new beginning.
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Reviewed by Tahlia Newland
October 14, 2014
As a writer, I was told to keep a nice balance between narrative, description and dialogue. That including a lot of the former, along with a lot of backstory, really drags the reader through the experience and slows the pace down to nothing.
And yet here we are giving the Lupane Legacy five stars.
The Lupane Legacy begins with a brutal village massacre somewhere in the depths of Zimbabwe, just after it had stopped being named Rhodesia. A small boy, Patrick Khumalo, remains the lone survivor of the ordeal. Across the world, in Washington DC, Joshua Denham attends a concert held by the Austrian embassy where his cousin, Constance Traun is a renowned violinist. There, he again meets none other than Devon Kerr, a banker who first met him in Afghanistan, during his tour with the Marines. Patrick, now in Zimbabwean Intelligence years and years later, one day receives the package he has been waiting his whole life for: a film reel of what happened in his village when he was five.
The book continues thus, with two parallel lines on two different continents, until out of the blue Patrick calls Constance; they must meet in person.
The Lupane Legacy carries the reader along smoothly, a page-turner that kept me up nights trying to figure out just how everything would play out. The narrative reveals a lot about the author’s education, it’s full of choice imagery, the vocabulary is lush and full, and expects the reader to read between the lines often. Slow as narrative generally goes, this book hits a good stride and doesn’t let up even after the explosive climax.
Readers of thrillers and mysteries beware: while this book is an excellent one, in terms of historical fiction and even literary fiction, there isn’t as much action as one would expect. Most of the book is building characters and explaining the political situations of the present and the past for various different countries. The characters are real, the dialogue never trite or cardboard, and the description is handled with the same effortlessness as the narrative, though one could ask for a tad more in some places.
If there was one gripe about the book, it was that it sailed over my head in a few places. Movie, music and literature references expect the reader to be familiar with a lot of classics, and for a vast majority of readers, that simply won’t be the case. It was possible to surge past this, but I felt certain that my enjoyment and experience with the story was lacking something in not understanding these.
In addition, this book contains a preview of the second book in the series, the Pyin Protocol. I’m definitely keen to read further adventures of Joshua and Devon, to see what’s in store further down the road.
Thank you for the read, Darby.