Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Facets of Death - Diamonds are forever ... or are they?

Michael and Stanley - Publication Day!

The new Detective Kubu mystery out today
"...easily one of the best heist novels I’ve read since Gerald Browne’s classic 11 Harrowhouse"
Bookpage starred review
Gaborone in the early days
When Botswana became independent in 1966, it was a sparsely populated, poor country the size of France, mostly covered by the Kalahari Desert. Before that, Britain had governed it as the Bechuanaland Protectorate, not even bothering to set up a capital inside the country. It was administered from Mafikeng in South Africa. Gaborone was an insignificant town, and the country was basically a subsistence farming economy.

Kalahari landscape
What changed all that was the discovery of diamonds. There are stories that De Beers knew about the huge resource in Botswana before independence and kept it quiet, but that may be apocryphal. What is true is that the development fifteen years later of Jwaneng, the world’s richest diamond mine,  completely changed Botswana’s economy and its future.

Jwaneng is a huge open pit mine about an hour's drive west of Gaborone. It produces more than 10 million carats of raw diamonds a year. If all those diamonds ended up as jewellery, they would retail for about $150 billion! As a 50% partner in the Debswana joint venture, Botswana earns huge revenue.

The open pit mine at Jwaneng
But much could have gone wrong. Political instability would have turned off investors. Nationalisation might have led to the industry’s collapse (as it did with the copper mines in Zambia). Or security issues might have destroyed the country’s credibility. And that brings us to the new Detective Kubu novel, Facets of Death, out in North America today.

Huge rock moving vehicles
There are big differences between Facets of Death and the previous Kubu novels. It’s a prequel set about twenty years ago (ten years before A Carrion Death), and it starts with Kubu’s first day at the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department—trying to learn the job and build a role for himself. He’s given the job of discovering why suitcases are disappearing from Gaborone Airport—something minor to cut his teeth on. But almost immediately, there’s a huge heist of 100,000 carats of raw diamonds being transported from the Jwaneng diamond mine to Gaborone. Even as raw gems that's at least $10 million worth.

Rough diamonds
Not only are the diamonds stolen, but the driver and a guard on the security vehicle are cold-bloodedly executed. The police are initially confident of catching the perpetrators before they leave the country, but that gives way to despondency as time passes. It’s exactly the sort of security breach that could lead to a collapse of confidence in the vibrant new Botswana economy. So the stakes couldn't be higher, and the powers that be want the case solved and the culprits brought to justice very quickly, or heads are going to roll. The commissioner of police, government ministers, and even the chairman of Debswana are looking over the CID’s shoulder.

Cash in transit vehicle after a heist in South Africa
Kubu is thrown into this maelstrom before he’s even settled into his office, let alone settled into his job. His new boss, Assistant Superintendent Jacob Mabaku (later the director of the CID) identifies him as having special talents and pulls him onto the case. But even as Mabaku and his team make progress, the robbers seem to be one step ahead. Everyone who knew the mine's security plan is a possible suspect, including the director of the CID and the owners of the mine. And Mabaku and Kubu can't even trust the South African police. 

We had great fun writing the prequel and playing with this “what if” scenario. As far as we know, Debswana has never had a serious heist of this nature, but then again they are very secretive. Maybe it happened, but they kept it dead quiet…

1 comment:

  1. Hmm, reading this weeks posts "backwards" I somehow sense deja vu all over again. Does that mean I need buy a second copy of FACETS OF DEATH? I know the answer, guys. :) Can't wait to read it.