- Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz
Out from Cassava Republic, a press specializing in the new wave of Nigerian writers, Leye Adenle’s Easy Motion Tourist is superb international crime fiction. Set in the sprawling metropolis of Lagos, Easy Motion Tourist follows a British web journalist on assignment to cover the Nigerian election. Just arrived in the city and out to enjoy the nightlife, the journalist instead witnesses a ritual murder of a prostitute just outside a popular nightclub catering to wealthy clientele and foreign tourists. The hapless Brit immediately gets himself arrested when he attempts to cover the story; the neighborhood cops want the crime hushed up, worried about its potential impact on tourism in their posh part of town.
Enter local activist Amaka, whose mission is to protect Lagotian prostitutes from the dangers of their profession. She has other plans for the investigation. She secures the journalist’s release (not knowing that he works for a far less prestigious publication than his initial claims to the police force) and recruits him to aid her as she looks into the private lives of those powerful men she suspects of murder. As the two get closer to the truth behind the young woman’s murder, their growing attraction is just as compelling as their investigation.
Adenle’s book takes its name from a Nigerian High Life song, and is just as bright, dynamic and whimsical as its namesake. Adenle conjures such a sense of place, the reader may finish the book and wonder that they haven’t been physically transported to the colorful setting. Inequality is extreme in the city of Lagos, yet high and low rub shoulders more than one might expect in Easy Motion Tourist. Cheerfully corrupt politicians mingle with wily sex workers, hopeless car thieves, and earnest NGO workers for a portrait of a complex city with a fine line between illicit industry and legal.
Bars full of wealthy tourists one moment are flooded by prostitutes fleeing police raids the next; scenes shift between palatial mansions full of imported goods, to working class slums teeming with creative small industries. Some neighborhoods bribe the police force to protect them, while others rally en masse to keep strike forces out (one particularly dramatic arrest sequence takes place in a neighborhood where arrests must be made at night – police are not welcome in the daylight). Upon finishing Easy Motion Tourist, I had the sense that despite Adenle’s timeless mastery of the mystery genre, his plot could only have taken place at the exact time and in the exact place in which he set the novel.
Ritualistic killings mingle with modern motivations for a murder mystery that holds its cards close until its shocking denouement. Casual violence appears throughout the book as a fact of city life, yet Adenle never dismisses the value of lives so casually cut down, drawing attention to the precarious safety of Lagos’ most vulnerable residents. Stylish action sequences and well-choreographed gun battles lend an aura of 70s cinema to the novel, and one would hope this story makes its way on screen sooner rather than later. In an interview with fellow Nigerian writer Jowhor Ile, Adenle picks Tarantino as the ideal filmmaker to turn Easy Motion Tourist into a film, and I have the same hope for this ultraviolent, ultrastylish thriller.
You can find copies of Easy Motion Tourist on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.