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Strange Gods    by Annamaria Alfieri order for
Strange Gods
by Annamaria Alfieri
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Annamaria Alfieri's Strange Gods is a historical mystery with a strong vein of romance running through the story, which opens in 1911.

The female lead, Vera McIntosh, daughter of Scottish missionaries, grew up in British East Africa. She's more at home in the Kikuyu village near the mission compound than amongst her British peers. Vera is strongly attracted to handsome Justin Tolliver (assistant superintendant of police), who is just as much a social outsider as Vera is, since policing 'was not the done thing for the son of an earl'.

As the story opens, Vera resents the fact that her younger brother Otis has left on safari with their parents' friends, while she is stuck at home, where her mother 'tried to control every minute of her time.' But perhaps it's as well that Otis is away as their uncle, Dr. Josiah Pennyman, is found speared in the compound. Justin is summoned to investigate, assisted by Kwai Libazo, who is half Kikuyu, half Maasai.

Suspicion soon falls on a Kikuyu, local medicine man (witch doctor to the Brits) Gichinga Mbura, who hated the Scottish physician. But the murderer used a Maasai spear, which a Kikuyu would never do. Nevertheless, authorities press Justin hard to make an arrest and he is forced to do so. But he pursues other leads, as does Vera, both concerned that justice be done.

There are misunderstandings between the young lovers and some surprising twists and turns to the plot, but what held my interest in the novel was more the setting (historical and scenic) than whodunit. If you enjoy historical mysteries, then head to colonial East Africa and enjoy Strange Gods.

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