Review: Death in Zanzibar

Death in Zanzibar by M. M. KayeM.M. Kaye, Death in Zanzibar

Dany Ashton has lived a fairly sheltered life with her Aunt Henrietta in rural England, but she dreams of travel and adventure. So when she has the opportunity to visit her mother and stepfather in Zanzibar, she jumps at the chance. However, before she even gets on the plane to leave England, mysterious events conspire to throw obstacles in her path. Her room is searched, her passport is stolen — and the family solicitor, whom Dany had visited earlier in the day to pick up a document for her stepfather, is murdered. Dany nevertheless manages to get to Zanzibar, but more sinister occurrences follow her. When a member of her stepfather’s house party dies, seemingly by accident, Dany can’t help suspecting that it might be murder — and that her own life may also be in danger.

I have really enjoyed all the “Death in…” books, but I think this one is my new favorite. I liked that there isn’t a lot of tedious exposition at the beginning of the story; rather, Dany is immediately plunged into a mystery and a possible romance, so I was paying attention right away. It was also interesting to read about 1950s Zanzibar from a British perspective. Kaye describes it as an idyllic region fairly removed from politics, yet communism and Cold War ideology are beginning to creep into the area. Kaye is also fairly evenhanded in her portrayal of the native Africans, though certain turns of phrase are harsh on 21st-century ears. If you like the basic premise of “girl travels to exotic location and becomes embroiled in danger and romance,” you’ll probably enjoy this book. Recommended, especially for armchair travelers!

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