I’m overwhelmed, excited and a little bit scared as I present the first look at An Angel in Flames, my new book and the first of a planned series of books (the Mount Kenya Series) featuring a woman unafraid to break boundaries, shatter ceilings and confront injustice.
This taut, immersive book includes a lively cast of supporting characters who help bring Laikipia’s splendour to life. An Angel in Flames will give you an atmospheric taste of Africa’s beauty and takes you on a journey into its dark side. Where courageous men and women grapple with corrupt leaders and high stakes for the sake of peace and justice for all.
It’s my hope that you’ll be riveted to the last page as the shocking identity of the murderer is laid bare and at last his gruesome mission revealed.
A GRUESOME MURDER
A POLITICAL FIRESTORM
A TANTALISING MYSTERY
Laikipia County, Kenya.
One of the most fascinating places in the world
Where Billionaire Cowboys and Maasai Herdsmen
Mingle Alongside British Royalty and Kenya Air Force Pilots.
On a freezing cold morning shrouded in fog, a young woman stumbles across the mutilated and burnt body of her father at the foothills of Mount Kenya.
Chief Inspector Ange Mutua is thrown into the deep end when she gets a call to investigate the gruesome murder. One of Kenya’s most controversial political leaders has been slain grotesquely, triggering a series of shockwaves that reverberate to the very top of the government.
Amidst the flower farms of Laikipia, the five star luxury resorts and under the long glacial gaze of Mount Kenya, she must separate fact from fiction and find a vicious murderer while being pulled into a very personal fight for her life, her career and her values.
Here’s a tease of the book – enjoy the lead chapter:
The flames rose searing flesh and bone. The voices too lifted, the revelry and laughter echoing through the valley. It built up into a wall of noise that almost split Nimo’s head into shards. The side gate kept swinging open letting in more and more bodies into the courtyard. Black, white, Indian, Chinese. A taste of Nanyuki’s diverse fauna. The Lingala music throbbed over them and they writhed and shook like jellyfish. Dusty sweaty limbs pressed into her and she twisted away from the fray, gasping for fresh air.
All she got was the intense burnt aroma of nyama choma BBQ meat and stale beer. She darted out of the tent and into the garden. Leaving behind the heaving masses, the screaming children, the baying DJ and the drunken hordes.
For a moment, her slim frame silhouetted against the large bonfire blazing on the edge of the garden, a rotisserie of meat spinning above it. Every now and then, the flames sparked, fueled by the dripping fat falling off the specialty dry aged beef.
From the safety of the pool house doorway, she watched the merrymaking unfold. Trays of glistening protein and mounds of carbohydrates swept past. They headed to the scattered tables where the hungrier members of the throng gorged themselves on the hearty fare. On the dance floor, waists twisted, braided hair flew and limbs distorted as each dancer tried to outdo the other. Even the children joined in, generating laughs from the adults with their cute attempts at lipala.
There was no doubt about it. Duncan Waweru threw a good party. He was a local legend and this was his night. A celebration of all he’d achieved in 75 years. It was a birthday party that would rival all others and be the envy of his cronies. It was 2017’s party of the year.
With yells of acoustic prowess, the hired Kamba dancers rushed onto centre stage. They unleashed their gymnastic skills and the party roared. Nimo’s gaze narrowed when one of them seized a shapely woman on the sidelines and whirled her up into the air. She protested to no avail. Nimo sucked her teeth in disdain. She was sure the woman’s objection was faked like everything else about her. The lead performer captured the woman in his arms and pushed into a vigorous, intensely close dance. From his throne-like chair hoisted on a platform above the dance floor, Duncan’s booming laugh signaled his approval. His young, sexy partner was on show and he loved it.
In the shadows, the young woman’s lips twisted. Her father took great joy in showing off his trophies. Cherry Mwende was certainly the icing on the cake of his diamond years. Once a cad, always a cad, Nimo thought, echoing her mother’s words. Thank God Regina was not here to see this joke of a party unfold. Duncan’s first wife was not invited even though she’d been his right hand woman for over 40 years of his life. Her sacrifice was the reason he was now the ultimate man, as he liked to coin himself.
Why couldn’t anyone tell him he was everything but the ultimate man? Why couldn’t she, his own daughter, say what she thought of him to his face? Was it because he couldn’t take the criticism, for he was deeply sensitive man under his bluster? Or was it because his reputation for ruthlessness far eclipsed him, colouring every encounter he had? Regardless, she despised how he made her feel. Powerless and weak.
Nimo shook off her cynicism with a shrug. The night was young and she refused to let neither Duncan nor Cherry sour her mood any further.
Beyond the disco lights, the pale quarter moon cast its weak light on the tall peaks towering over the valley. Mount Kenya. The mountain men had worshipped for centuries, whispering their prayers for great harvests, sweet love and long life to Ngai, the god of the skies, whose throne sat on the highest ridge of the majestic peaks. Nimo gazed up at the looming cathedral of rock and ice, sending up her own prayer. That this night would soon be over.
She breathed in and the sweet air rushing down the slopes filled her lungs. It cleansed her, replacing the gritty dust that gusted up from the dance floor. She imagined what lay beyond the revelry. The fields of savannah grassland, the brilliance of the stars that seemed so close that she could touch them and the night calls of the white-throated bee-eater settling into its nest. Nature at its healing best. The tart taste in her mouth faded and she turned her attention back to the party. The tent billowed as the dancers kicked up their heels, the bonfire flicking light onto their sweaty, happy faces.
A familiar face pushed through the writhing figures, eyes darting and searching. Nimo smiled. Finally, someone she could relate to. Moments later she swept them up in an enveloping hug.
‘Looking for me?’
‘Nimo!’ It was Raha, Nimo’s best friend and neighbour. ‘There you are.’
‘I was delaying the inevitable,’ said the tiny ebony skinned girl. She threw a nervous glance around the room. ‘You know I hate parties.’
Raha paused for a moment. ‘Is Simi here? I’d rather he didn’t see me.’
‘You know he’s always here,’ Nimo said, giving her friend a closer look. ‘Are you avoiding him?’
‘Maybe. It’s been a bit weird lately. So have you seen him?’
‘He’s somewhere out the front making sure no strangers crash the party. Everything OK with you guys?’
Nimo searched Raha’s face with concern. The two young women had met ten years ago across the fence dividing their parents’ farms. They’d gone to the same high school and registered for the same medical degree. They knew everything there was to know about each other. At least that’s what Nimo believed.
‘We’re fine … hey, you look great,’ Raha deflected, admiring Nimo’s blue silk dress.
‘Not so bad yourself … red suits you.’
‘Pity no-one will notice the effort we’ve gone into after they’ve looked at her.’
The pairs’ eyes followed the woman capturing everyone’s attention on the dance floor.
Nimo sucked her teeth. ‘Her dress alone cost over two hundred thousand shillings and she had it flown in from Paris. I asked him for a loan to buy a good doctor’s bag and he said no. I hate him for being so stupid and I hate her for bleeding him dry.’
‘She’s a leech alright,’ Raha said with unusual emotion. ‘I know it!’ She stopped herself from saying more. ‘No! I don’t want to spoil your night.’
Nimo shrugged. ‘It’s not my night. It’s his.’
‘All power to him then.’
Nimo sensed her friend had something on her mind. ‘What did you just want to tell me?’
Raha waved her friend’s curiosity away. ‘Later. When we’re alone. For now, celebrate the man or at least pretend to.’
Nimo barely hid her feelings. ‘The last thing on my mind is celebrating him. I’m protecting mother. He threatened to throw her out of her own home if I didn’t come, even after she held it for him all those years. I’m just another piece of property to him. It’s the only reason he pays my med school fees and nothing else. For the sole reason of showing me off. He doesn’t care that I’m working two other jobs to cover food and bills for mum and myself. He doesn’t care that I’m exhausted and worn out. He only wants to flaunt my achievements …’
As if on cue, the music slowed and a loud voice boomed through the speakers.
‘You’ve seen my beautiful woman,’ – Duncan roared into the mic – ‘Next, I want to share this evening with my talented daughter. She’s a doctor in training and the pride of my loins. Come here my lovely one.’
All eyes turned to Nimo. The spotlight swung around to train itself over her. Raha gave her friend a wry smile tinged with sympathy and a squeeze of support on her shoulder.
With a deep breath and an uneasy smile, the Nimo stepped forward, into the arms of the burly man.
Duncan Waweru was a man of great stature. Thick grey hair sat like a coiffured hat on his massive dome. He sported a wide nose and curling lips that sat above a large double chin. Regardless of his six foot two height and similar girth, he took pride in his appearance and toilette. Encouraged by Cherry, he wore cutting edge modern suits made from loud African prints and tailored by exclusive stores in Nairobi and Lagos. His shoes were custom made too. His feet shuffled across the dance floor in glossy green crocodile skin loafers. Bright yellow socks matched the pocket square fluttering on his chest. Nimo shuddered at the man he was trying so hard to be. A youthful dandy at 75. Disgusting.
The music shifted into a soulful Sauti Sol number. She waltzed stiffly in her father’s arms, her face grim and cold.
‘Thank you for indulging an old man,’ he rumbled into her ear. He ignored her gloominess as he expertly led her across the floor, the strength in his arms belying his age. ‘It means a lot to me.’
His expensive cologne washed over her, as did his words. They meant nothing to her yet she nodded woodenly. Keeping up appearances was a trick she’d mastered over the years.
‘Your mother is well?’ he murmured, waving and laughing to the crowd as he swept past.
‘Tell her I’m grateful to her for lending you to me this evening.’
‘I’ll pass on your appreciation.’
From her vantage point, she saw the way the guests around them kowtowed to the powerful man. From the local mayor to the county’s Member of Parliament, they all seemed fascinated and somewhat terrified of his presence.
‘Speaking of your mother, tell her my lawyers will be in touch very soon. Nothing to worry about, but our union, if we can call it that, is all but history now. I need to be free. I’ve instructed them to draw up the paperwork and fast track it. Don’t worry, she’ll be well compensated.’
Nimo pulled back in shock, staring at her father as he pushed her reluctant body across the dance floor.
‘Don’t hiss at me. You know damn well what I’m saying. I need to be free. To marry the one I now adore.’
At that moment, the woman in question rolled in a large food trolley. A candlelit tower of buttercream and layered fondant wobbled on it. Duncan exclaimed in pleasure and pranced off, cutting short their conversation. Moments later, with Cherry leading the singing, the gathering stated that Duncan Waweru was indeed a jolly good fellow. He beamed at his guests, clapping with all the delight of a child as they sang for him. He took a lethal looking knife to the decadent pile of chocolate rum confection, giggling as Cherry fed him a slice. Nimo watched the woman simper and fawn at her father. She looked like she was practicing for her nuptials, Nimo thought bitterly. She vowed at that moment never to let it happen. The idea of Cherry becoming a formal member of the Waweru clan was a nightmare she couldn’t fathom.
Nimo stepped aside as the partygoers shoved past her, falling on the dessert like hungry vultures, devouring and tearing it apart. She shoved one woman back, baring her teeth when the woman protested. Who were these animals, Nimo wondered, trying to reclaim some personal space.
‘Piga dansi kidogo!’ Duncan bellowed.
The music started up again and the birthday man swept Nimo up in yet another dance. His corpulent face was flush with heat, excitement and exhilaration.
‘You will not do this to mum!’ Nimo said, resuming their discussion.
‘I can and I will!’ came Duncan’s reply. Resolve set in his face as the music pumped up around them.
For a moment Nimo indulged the notion of reaching her hands up to his throat and choking the very life out of him. What a bastard she thought, her entire body trembling with fury.
Suddenly her father whirled to a stop.
‘Who’s what?’ Nimo followed his alarmed gaze to the bonfire beyond the tent’s open dance floor. ‘Where?’
‘There,’ he gestured wildly. ‘In the fire. I saw someone.’
The area surrounding the fire pit was empty. The flames of the inferno leapt up even higher towards the sky and Nimo wondered whether Duncan was drunk.
‘In the fire? Are you sure?’
By now, their fellow revelers had also paused their dancing, drawn to their host’s alarm.
‘I saw a person, standing in the middle of the bonfire,’ he roared. ‘I’m not mad. I saw what I saw. Security!’
In a flash, a group of men led by a tall sinewy man, loped towards the giant blaze. They fanned out beyond it, in search of the mysterious intruder.
Everyone milled about murmuring until the guards returned, all with the same account.
‘Hakuna mtu. There’s nobody there,’ said Simi, the tall, lean head of security.
‘But I saw some … thing … one … standing there. In the flames. Staring at me.’
For the first time in her life, Nimo saw her father visibly shaken. He was ashen under his dark skin and he kept rubbing his upper lip in distress.
Cherry muscled in on Duncan. She bundled him away, leaving instructions to the security team. She wanted them to search the farm and grounds for any intruders.
‘Carry on, carry on,’ Duncan called out as he stumbled off in his girlfriend’s arms, dazed and confused.
Raha made her way to Nimo’s side.
‘What was that all about?’
‘He’s going crazy!’ Nimo snapped. ‘Stark raving mad!
‘He has been a little erratic lately.’
The statement came from Simi who’d joined the pair by the pool house.
‘Thanks Simi but I don’t need your opinion on my father!’
Nimo had never quite warmed to Raha’s boyfriend. There was something snake-like about him. He also had a habit of materialising silently all over the property, which gave her the creeps.
Simi shrugged off Nimo’s resentment, giving the women a tight smile. ‘Back to work then.’
‘I’ll see you later,’ he said pointedly to Raha. He and his crew took off, spreading out over the acreage in search of a ghost.
‘That’s put some lead in the proverbial balloon,’ Raha said.
The party atmosphere had certainly deflated. Clumps of people headed towards the gates and the dance floor was deserted.
‘It’s over, red rover. When the big man exits the building, so must we,’ Nimo said humourlessly.
‘That doesn’t mean we can’t have a good time,’ Raha said. She lifted up a bottle of amber liquid in one hand and two glasses in another.
Nimo sighed with pleasure. ‘Now you’re talking. The shed?’
‘Where else? Do I have a story for you!’
‘And I, one for you!’
The pair took off together. They left behind the sound of a tired DJ trying to revive the party and the puzzled murmurs of the leftover guests.
As she hoisted herself over a rear fence, Nimo looked back at the scene once more. Her heart missed a beat. In the flames of the roaring bonfire, she saw a faint silhouette. Mesmerised, she watched it shimmer like a mirage before it disappeared into the inferno. It was just her imagination playing tricks, she thought. She vaulted over the fence and into the darkness.
It was the loud, fluid whistles of the white-browed sparrow weavers that shocked Nimo from slumber. They fussed in their nest perched high on the tip of the acacia tree outside. Their screeches rent the air and she covered her ears trying to muffle the cacophony. It was useless. Cursing, she leapt from the straw bed, knocking over an abandoned bottle of rum. She looked around the shed. She was alone. Raha had left, probably to get an early start for Nairobi. Without saying goodbye, Nimo sulked to herself.
She gathered a shuka over her bare shoulders and stepped down a wooden ladder to the shed door. Nudged it open, she squinted in the early morning sun. The big house beyond looked like a castle in the ethereal light. She saw a glow in the kitchen and felt her stomach growl. A plate of greasy, fried food would be heaven right now, she mused.
She dashed across a small clearing to the rear fence. She clambered over it and followed the path leading to the back courtyard.
Her footsteps crunched on the tiny icicles of frost dusting the grass, a gift from the snow-capped peaks above. Her breath formed into clouds of vapour that swept away in the cold wind flowing from the mountain.
A tendril of smoke caught her eye. Then she heard a raspy hiss punctuated by a bark. It sent shivers down her spine and she paused mid-step. She glanced up at four large birds perched on the branches of a mugumo tree nearby. A volt of vultures. Two of them shook out their repulsive feathers and hopped to the ground, ignoring her. They brazenly ambled toward the smoking fire pit and leant over it, pecking at something. Scraps of meat from the night before, she thought.
Nimo particularly loathed the sight of vultures. She ran towards them flapping her shuka. Startled, the scavengers rose to the air yapping.
That’s when she saw what they’d been poking at. She slid to a stop, her mouth falling open in a silent scream. She fell to the ground in disbelief, her knees sinking into grass, ash and mud. Above, the flock of vultures hissed at her, swaying in the wind.
– END OF EXCERPT –
AN ANGEL IN FLAMES is now available on Amazon.com:
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Rest of the world:
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