Leye Adenle’s book is a crime fiction set in Lagos, Nigeria. The book starts out with a prologue that depicts a young girl struggling to survive in Lagos and ends up a prostitute. The prologue becomes a foundation for this book that speaks about the personal travails of sex workers that many people are oblivious to. Sex workers are seen all around but rather than seeing their humanity, we see their acts and choice of trade as despicable because our own moral compass and perceptions condemn such in the vilest of ways. Sex workers are viewed as scums and unwanted members of the society and therefore, they are objectified, despised and as Adenle points out clearly in the book, they are treated badly and discarded like trash.
Guy Collins, a British Journalist comes into Nigeria to cover the upcoming elections but his case is a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is drawn to a commotion at a bar where he goes for a drink. His inquisitiveness gets the best of him and he sees the body of a girl in a gutter with her body parts removed. Being a witness, he is whisked away by the police and more drama unfolds which leads to him meeting Amaka, a lady who works for a charity organisation that helps keep sex workers safe.
The book describes the goriness and darkness that characterizes Lagos, Nigeria. Amaka and Guy work together to unmask the men behind the killing of the young girl and stop them from doing same to others. Adenle covers crimes that are popularly known in Lagos; chief of them being ritual killings, prostitution, arm robbery and banditry.
Adenle exposes the corruption at the upper echelon of society through characters like the Chief Amadi’s and members of Neighbourhood associations of elite residences, who care less about what crime happens as long as it does not affect their comfortable lifestyle and the lower echelon who would do anything to be part of the elites like the Knockouts, Go-Slows and Catch-Fire characters. They become pawns in the hands of the high and mighty to perpetuate evil and are discarded when they no longer prove useful.
The author however does not fail to poke at governing authorities who are sometimes complacent in dealing with these crimes and even when they decide to do their jobs, they do it with brutal and inhumane tactics as long as the job is done and they can please those who sit at the head of the table. Characters like Sergeant Hot-Temper makes you see the power drunken state of law enforcement agents and their inability to respect the sanctity of humanhood.
Anyone who reads this book will cringe at the vivid images that the author paints and perhaps that is the idea behind Leye Adenle’s book: that readers must know what happens in the deep crevices of the city of Lagos they have come to call home. Adenle may be passing a clear message on the rottenness of the city that we must all come together to fight. Problems of poverty and wide income gaps between the rich and the poor and mere catalyst for a variety of inhumane crimes that are witnessed day in day out and to the mere man on the street, such have become the norm. Maybe it is time for the norm of crime to become abnormal.
This book is realist in its approach and does not seem to point at any viable solution but one can infer from Amaka’s charity organisation (Street Samaritans) that it might just be the action of one, two or three people to light the match and spark a change. Amaka’s resilience must be admired and learnt from. Guy’s support might also symbolise the need for international cooperation to bind the legs and hands of the monsters of crime that roam the city. Perhaps, Amaka’s doggedness and will is the beauty and hope we can see in the cruelty and ugliness that permeates the street corners and mansions of Lagos. Through this book, Leye Adenle makes us confront the sores, wounds and goriness of the city of Lagos that we have turned a blind eye to.
True realism consists in revealing the surprising things which habit keeps covered and prevents us from seeing.Jean Cocteau, French Poet.
The language is simple and the author manages to use the third person point of view and first-person point of view narrative style relatively well. Every page leaves you wanting to turn the next page. Many lessons can be picked from this book but Adenle opens up many topics of discussions. Definitely, the story goes on…