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Tail of the Blue Bird (2009)

by Nii Ayikwei Parkes

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884248,214 (3.92)6
'Tail of the Blue Bird' is a story of the mythical heart of Africa, of the clash and clasp between old and new worlds. Lyrically beautiful, at once uncanny and heart-warmingly human, this is a story that tells us that at the heart of modern man there remains the capacity to know the unknowable.
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English (3)  Dutch (1)  All languages (4)
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A young scientist and forensic expert, Kayo, is coerced into investigating some foul smelling, presumably human remains found in a small village far away from the Ghanaian capital of Accra when other policemen are baffled by the villagers' lack of cooperation. A newly-minted forensic investigator, a genteel and polite Ghanaian man educated in England, is forcibly coopted by the chief of police (who, obviously, has his own agenda in pursuing the case). Kayo and his assigned partner Garba use take a more traditional and respectful approach and gain the village's confidence, especially the great hunter and the medicine-man. The book's strength is the contrast between modern forensic science and traditional tribal values and storytelling, and the breakthroughs in the case are from both approaches. However, the pidgin of Ghana is hard to follow and shame on the publisher for using a website, rather than printing a glossary to help readers. Shameful.


( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
There seems to be a great idea behind this text, a fusion on several levels. The dramatic contrast in the social fabric of modern Kenya is reduplicated in the narrative, a detective story that aspires to incorporate, even reconcile the split by offering a double perspective, coexistence without contradiction.

Sadly, the execution reduces this ambition to a quirk. While it is not a bad story after all, even half a year later, having given it all some thought, I cannot figure out how it is supposed to work as a crime fiction novel (ostensibly, all told, it is one). And as such, it fails to impress. The characters (of which there are slightly more than one) are quite flat, and the story line bears such obvious marks of multiple editing that I had to go back to a previous page several times to see what I missed.

Still it reads well and manages to impress and makes me wish that there is a next installment and that it matures to be a success. ( )
  alik-fuchs | Apr 27, 2018 |
This book is set mainly in the village of Sonokrom, deep in the Ghanaian bush country, although it’s only a few hours from Accra, Ghana’s Capital and largest city, things have remained the same for hundreds of years. This is a place where the people walk in step with their ancestors, where the old ways and the old words still have meaning, where they still understand Mother Natures tongue and the only link to the modern world is a transistor radio. After the discovery of some suspicious, possibly human, remains in one of the village huts by the girlfriend of a government minister, who freaked out by what she sees, sets off a chain of events in Accra, that goes from her to the minister and from him to an ambitious corrupt police inspector and on to the hero of this book - Kayo Odamtten, a young man, who after studying forensic pathology in England, then working several years as a crime scenes officer in the Midlands, has returned home and now is working as a forensic pathologist for a private company in the capital. Kayo at first refuses, but is forced by the inspector, to work the case or face imprisonment on (false) conspiracy charges.

This story then returns to the village of Sonokrom, where Kayo sets about trying to solve this case.

This book is part traditional detective tale, part literary novel; blending both concepts seamlessly into a beautiful whole that manages to satisfy as a whodunit, whilst perfectly highlighting the disparities between the modern world and the traditional life of the village, that delights with it’s descriptions of the world it inhabits, scenes that don’t merely shine on the page but continue to glow on the retina and yet like all good social commentators, whilst showing the light, the writer doesn’t shy away from the darker side of this society, painting a vivid portrait of the madness & corruption inherent in the society.

http://parrishlantern.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/nii-ayikwei-parkes.html ( )
  parrishlantern | Jun 29, 2012 |
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Epigraph
On this dunghill we willsearch among the rubble for our talisman of hope. 'This Earth, My Brother', Kofti Awoonor.
Dedication
To my mother, Mary Na Akuyea Parkes, for allowing me to daydream; Christopher Wells, who in one afternoon taught me the art of patience and negotiation; and the memory of my father, Jerry who taught me to rise early.
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De vogels zijn altijd blijven doorzingen.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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original title: Tail of the Blue Bird
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'Tail of the Blue Bird' is a story of the mythical heart of Africa, of the clash and clasp between old and new worlds. Lyrically beautiful, at once uncanny and heart-warmingly human, this is a story that tells us that at the heart of modern man there remains the capacity to know the unknowable.

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