Following is a review of Hell’s Gate by Richard Compton, Sarah Crichton Books, NY 2014
This is an intriguing detective story set in the Naivasha/Hell’s Gate area of Kenya. The hero is police detective Mollel who has been demoted to the Rift Valley location - or has he? The plot winds around a bit and features all sorts of disreputable characters on the make in one form or another. Ultimately the plot revolves around the mysterious death of a young worker in the flower industry. Unraveling the cause of her demise leads the intrepid Mollel to a range of disturbing activities - disappearances, poaching, tribal enmity, police corruption, witchcraft, gang intimidation and national politics. Ever steady, Mollel’s low key approach slowly makes headway and finally, of course, results in an acceptable outcome. Along the way the reader gets to appreciate his determination and insights into the people he interacts with. A sub theme plays on his Maasai tribal origins, his differences from other Kenyans, and whether or not, or to what extent, Maasai people ought to be integrated into modern Kenya.
The Naivasha area setting is accurate and the characters, even though replete with stereotypical traits given their various stations in life, i.e. noble game warden, obnoxious expatriate, venal gang chief, etc. are nonetheless believable. The author’s use of Swahili and even Sheng (the patois of urban Kenyan youth) give authenticity to the story. Although the plot does get a bit wild towards the end, the tale is well told and keeps the reader engaged.
Apparently detective Mollel is featured in at least one other novel. Certainly, there will be more to come.