‘It was definitely a skull … Was it human?’ Read an excerpt from A Deadly Covenant, the new thrilling mystery by Michael Stanley
More about the book!
Michael Stanley’s award-winning, international bestselling Detective Kubu series returns with another thrilling, chilling sequel: A Deadly Covenant – out now from Jonathan Ball Publishers!
Read an excerpt, courtesy of the authors’ website, below.
About the book
When a human skeleton is discovered at the site of a controversial new dam in remote northern Botswana, rookie Detective Kubu is drawn into a terrifying local feud, and discovers a deadly covenant that could change everything …
While building a pipeline near the Okavango Delta, a contractor unearths the remains of a long-dead Bushman. Rookie Detective David ‘Kubu’ Bengu of Botswana CID and Scottish pathologist, Ian MacGregor, are sent to investigate, and MacGregor discovers the skeletons of eight more men.
Shortly after the gruesome discoveries, the elder of a nearby village is murdered in his home. The local police are convinced it was a robbery, but Kubu isn’t so sure … and neither is the strange woman who claims that an angry river spirit caused the elder’s death.
As accusations of corruption are levelled and international outrage builds over the massacre of the Bushman families, Kubu and his colleagues uncover a deadly covenant, and begin to fear that their own lives may be in mortal danger …
About the authors
Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. Stanley was an educational psychologist, specialising in the application of computers to teaching and learning, and is a pilot. Michael specialises in image processing and remote sensing, and teaches at Wits University. On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award for Best Paperback Original mystery and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award. A Death in the Family and Dying to Live are the latest in the Detective Kubu series, published in 2017 by Orenda Books. Dead of Night the standalone thriller, was published in 2018.
Read the excerpt:
A Deadly Covenant
Amos Sebina peered through the dust at the bucket of his backhoe. He blinked and looked again. He had to be mistaken, but it did look like a skull sticking out of the sand. He turned off the engine and jumped out of the cab, shielding his eyes from the sun. He eased forward to inspect it more closely.
It was definitely a skull.
He took a step back. Was it human? Or could it be a baboon’s? He didn’t know the difference. He scratched his head. If it was human, why wasn’t it buried in a graveyard? And if it was a baboon’s, why would anyone bury it in the first place?
He retreated further. He wasn’t going to touch it, because that could bring him very bad luck. He looked around for a stick but didn’t see one. So he broke a branch off a bush and stripped off the leaves and twigs.
He edged closer to the bucket, reached forward and poked the skull. It didn’t move.
He wanted to see more, but it would be disrespectful to stick the branch into the eye socket and try to lift it. So, he used the branch to sweep away the fine Kalahari sand. In a few minutes, most of the skull was visible, but he was none the wiser as to what sort of creature it had belonged to.
He stepped back, unsure of what to do. If he dumped the skull and continued digging, his boss would be happy, but the police wouldn’t – if it was a human skull. If he stopped digging, and the skull turned out to be a baboon’s, his boss would be furious and probably fire him for delaying the project.
Sebina knew that his best course of action was to tell his boss as soon as possible and let him make the decision. However, there was no way to contact him. He’d only see him at the end of the day when he came to take him back to Ncamasere, the village where he lived.
Sebina shrugged. Whatever it was had been dead for a long time. A few more hours weren’t going to change anything.
He glanced at the trench that he’d been digging. He gasped and jumped backwards. Numerous bones of different shapes and sizes were protruding from the sand.
Now it was obvious that he couldn’t do any more digging that day. But it was only just before noon and at least five hours before his boss arrived. More likely six. He would bake if he sat in the cab for all that time doing nothing, to say nothing of the heat he’d take from his boss.
So he decided to walk to the farmhouse down the road to see if he could find some shade. His boss had told him in no uncertain terms that the farmhouse was off limits, but to hell with that. The skull was a good-enough reason to disobey orders. He could always say he had to report what he’d found as soon as possible, and the only way to do that was to have someone at the farmhouse call the police.
Sebina picked up his lunchbox and a bottle of now-tepid water, and set off across the sand towards the road that led to the farmhouse. Maybe a car would pass, or a bakkie, that could drop him off a kilometre down the road. That would leave only a few hundred metres to his destination. However, nothing came down the road, not even a bicycle, leaving Sebina a nearly thirty-minute walk to the farm gate.
When he reached the driveway to the house, he stopped. Not only was there a high wall around the property, topped with razor wire, but his way forward was blocked by a metal swing gate with a large DO NOT ENTER sign, topped with more razor wire. Most frightening was the picture of two ferocious-looking black dogs, mouths open, teeth showing. With red eyes.
He looked around to see if there was an intercom he could use to alert the house. There wasn’t. In a final effort, he cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted, ‘Dumela! Hello!’ Nobody came out of the house. He tried again with the same result.
The only response was two huge dogs racing towards the gate, barking, snarling and jumping up against the gate. Sebina backed away. He looked at the house, but no one appeared. They were either out or not interested.
‘Amos Sebina,’ he said out loud. ‘Now don’t waste your time here. The skull can wait.’
After a couple of minutes, he turned and trudged back to the backhoe. The cab would have to do until his boss arrived to take him home later that afternoon.