Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Review of Easy Motion Tourist by Leye Adenle (Cassava Republic Press, 2016)

Former solicitor turned journalist, Guy Collins, is on assignment in Nigeria to cover the forthcoming elections for a small TV news agency. His first night in Lagos he decides to go to a local club. There’s a commotion outside when a woman’s mutilated body is dumped on the roadside; when Collins goes to investigate he’s arrested along with anyone else near the scene. Rather than being released the local inspector throws him in a cell. Several hours later he’s rescued by Amaka, a woman on a mission to try and protect the lives of prostitutes working in the city. Collins had claimed to be working for the BBC and Amaka can see an opportunity to use him to gain publicity for her cause. Avoiding the police, Amaka and Collins try to discover the identity of the powerful men who use and exploit the city’s prostitutes. Meanwhile some of those forces are involved in a deadly power game, along with an on-going feud with corrupt police who also want to stop Collins reporting anything negative about the country.

Set in Lagos in Nigeria, Adenle’s tale focuses on the plight of a visiting journalist who finds himself out-of-place in the seedy and dangerous underbelly of the city, tangling with corrupt police and politicians and vicious gangs who are involved in prostitution and trading body parts. His journey is guided by a beautiful, well-connected lawyer who is on a mission to improve the safety and lives of the city’s prostitutes and expose corrupt senior figures. Part of the tale concerns trying to protect the country’s reputation by silencing the journalist; no doubt the Nigerian tourist board would similarly like Adenle’s book to disappear given it pulls no punches. Indeed, the tale is fully of violent encounters, sexual exploitation and corruption. The story is a little uneven but engaging and compelling and there’s a strong sense of place. The plot works fine until the latter quarter where it seems to drift a little off-kilter, especially the role of the police in the denouement. As an aside, the title and cover of the French translation Lagos Lady seems more apt than Easy Motion Tourist, which is based on a song title. Overall, an interesting, dark tale of fighting corruption and crime in a city pervaded with both.

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