Author: Natalie C. Anderson
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Published: January 24th 2017
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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Gone Girl in this enthralling murder mystery set in Kenya.
In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn’t exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill’s personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.
With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother–and why–keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.
This book was a big surprise. I knew I’d like it after reading the synopsis, but it was far more enjoyable than I expected. The writing is pretty darn good for a debut author and Tina is a protagonist that you’ll immediately fall in love with. She just felt so real and to top it all of: she’s badass. She has a quite intensity and she’s smart. Also, she’s a very talented thief of one of Sangui City’s gangs.
Tina is Congolese, but she and her mother came to Kenya as refugees. Her mother never mentions their past life and Tina has no idea who her mother really is. Because of that their relationship is a bit strained. When her mother is murdered, Tina sets out to find the killer and exact revenge. I would say that this book has two parts. The first half is set in Kenya where Tina is working for the Goondas (thief gang) while setting her plan of revenge in motion. The second half mostly takes place in Congo, Tina’s home country, where she delves into her mother’s past in hopes of finding the killer and their motive. The author did a good job with the setting; the cities and villages were depicted in rich detail and the perfect amount of tension is invoked when needed, which made her writing almost atmospheric.
I liked all the side characters are interesting; they’re all complex and intriguing. There are no ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters. The synopsis doesn’t even begin to describe what this book is about. Things go unexpectedly dark later on. It goes deep into crime and corruption that is the reality of many African countries, and the harsh lives of women caught in the midst.
Overall, an intense and fast-paced read that kept me on edge throughout. The fact that it was set in Kenya and the amazing set of POC characters won me over from the beginning, and the mystery kept me latched on to the pages till the very end. An easy 5-star for me.
Trigger warning: Mentions of rape and kidnap
Natalie C. Anderson is a writer and international development professional living in Boston, Massachusetts. She has spent the last decade working with NGOs and the UN on refugee relief and development, mainly in Africa. She was selected as the 2014-2015 Associates of the Boston Public Library Children’s Writer in Residence, where she wrote her debut novel, City of Saints and Thieves.