KIRKUS REVIEWA desperate villager’s quest to become Zimbabwe’s newest executioner kicks off this intriguing debut horror novel involving man-eating plants, organ harvesting and other uncanny oddities.Abel Muranda is a devoted family man determined to do whatever it takes to feed his starving rural family, even if it means journeying far into the big city on foot in the hope of landing a job as the government’s hangman. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s ruling elite is in an uproar because someone has created a batch of carnivorous flame lilies capable of digging up the dead—and the government’s ghastly secrets, as the plants have been unearthing unmarked graves.Nothing is as it seems in Chiveneko’s science-fiction-tinged tale, which introduces readers to a lethal cast of bad guys and bad girls with tangled motivations. One intriguing subplot follows a man charged with creating a special gallows to be used for executions; he uses discarded weapons of war as his raw materials, and would rather spend time cuddling up to his cold, metallic creation than to his warm, loving wife. At nearly 500 pages, this intricately woven novel is a disconcerting parable exploded to epic proportions. The author renders its many characters, from the mad genius responsible for the impending botanic apocalypse, to the prostitute/undercover operative who falls in love with Abel, to the seemingly simple Abel himself, with frightening subtlety and detail.One member of the elite, called Doll Eyes, is described as follows: “Planted into the lower part of his skull was a jaw of menacing proportions. If someone ever tied to mug him at gunpoint, all he had to do was clench it. This alone would demoralize the robber.” The boughs of this arboreal shocker threaten to creak under the weight of its ever-mounting plot, but they never quite crack. Instead, readers are left wondering just how deep the roots go.A thought-provoking, singularly strange and absorbing novel.***BOOK SYNOPSIS
If you had to interview the candidates for a country's new hangman, what questions would you ask them? If your family was on the verge of starvation, and becoming a hangman was the only job available, would you apply? If you were hired, what would you do if the prisoners looked like your loved ones? But what if you knew that a good man was pursuing the job out of desperation, would you do anything to prevent him from getting it? And if that man's recruitment would somehow guarantee your own survival, would you encourage his candidacy? All these questions were asked of people who never thought they would find themselves in such a position, until they became mired in the chaos surrounding the hangman's replacement.
Zimbabwe’s last hangman retired in 2004. As the nation drifted towards abolition, no determined effort was made to find a replacement. However, the discovery of carnivorous flame lilies at the Great Zimbabwe national monument triggered a spirited search for a new executioner. Those who know why this discovery energized the recruitment effort refused to talk.
The frantic attempts to find a new hangman were impeded by the lack of suitable candidates. Well-placed sources confirmed that the fear of ngozi was a deterrent. According to this traditional belief, the spirit of a murdered person torments the killer and his family for generations. This is only half the story. Several promising applicants did come forward. None met the minimum requirements for the job. The selection criteria were designed to exclude the mentally ill, the vindictive, and the sadistic. However, they did not rule out the desperate.
This is the story of the aspiring hangman who was obsessed with securing the job; the sympathizers who fought to protect him from his prize; and the anxious men who believed that emptying death row would end their horror before the meat-eating plants constricted around their necks.***
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