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Death of the Mantis: A Detective Kubu Mystery (Detective Kubu Series) Paperback – September 6, 2011

60 customer reviews
Book 3 of 3 in the Detective Kubu Series

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Editorial Reviews


“DEATH OF THE MANTIS is the best book I’ve read in a very long time. A fantastic read. Brilliant!” (Louise Penny, New York Times bestselling author of Bury Your Dead)

“DEATH OF THE MANTIS is the best book yet in one of the best series going: a serious novel with a mystery at its core that takes us places we’ve never been, thrills and informs us, and leaves us changed by the experience. I loved this book.” (Timothy Hallinan, author of The Queen of Patpong and A Nail Through the Heart)

“Assistant Superintendent Kubu is back! A page-turner from start to finish. Michael Stanley’s enthralling series is a must-read for anyone who enjoys clever plotting, terrific writing, and a fascinating glimpse of today’s Africa. Kubu—DEATH OF THE MANTIS—Michael Stanley: the perfect mystery trifecta for any crime fan.” (Charles Todd, New York times bestselling author of A Matter of Justice)

“Impossible to put down, this immensely readable third entry. . . delivers the goods. Kubu’s painstaking detecting skills make him a sort of Hercule Poirot of the desert. . . . This series can be recommended to a wide gamut of readers.” (Library Journal (starred review))

“Kubu’s third recorded case is again alive with local color and detail and, refreshingly, offers his fullest mystery plot yet.” (Kirkus Reviews)

From the Back Cover

In the southern Kalahari area of Botswana—an arid landscape of legends that speak of lost cities, hidden wealth, and ancient gods—a fractious ranger named Monzo is found dying from a severe head wound in a dry ravine. Three Bushmen surround the doomed man, but are they his killers or there to help? Detective David “Kubu” Bengu is on the case, an investigation that his old school friend Khumanego claims is motivated by racist antagonism on the part of the local police. But when a second bizarre murder, and then a third, seem to point also to the nomadic tribe, the intrepid Kubu must journey into the depths of the Kalahari to uncover the truth. What he discovers there will test all his powers of detection . . . and his ability to remain alive.

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Product Details

  • Series: Detective Kubu Series (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (September 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062000373
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062000378
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #767,470 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Follow Michael Stanley at

Michael Stanley is the writing name of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both natives of Africa, we have traveled regularly together to Botswana and Zimbabwe over the past twenty years to experience the country with its wide diversity and interesting peoples. Our books reflect the authentic Africa of the 21st century: not merely the politically unstable, desperately poor Africa of the nightly news, but also the emotional conflicts of people with one foot in traditional culture and the other in Western-instigated globalism. The new Africa is not the safari jungle, but a collection of diverse groups and nations struggling to find their way in a rapidly changing context.

It was at the lion research center in the Savuti, an ancient dried-up lake in Botswana's Chobe National Park, that we realized how to conceal a perfect murder. We watched hyenas team up to drive lions off their fresh kills, then devour everything in sight, bones and all. By the next morning, no evidence remained of the carcass. Botswana offered the ideal setting for such a literary revelation. This was the kernel of the idea that led to our first book, A CARRION DEATH.

Our detective is Assistant Superintendent David Bengu of the Botswana criminal Investigation Department. His nickname is Kubu because of his size - "kubu" being the Setswana word for hippopotamus. Hippos in the wild spend most of the day in pools or rivers, with all but their eyes and ears under water; they look deceptively docile, belying the fact that they kill more people in Africa than any other mammal, trampling whatever lies between them and their objective. So with Kubu. On the surface he appears harmless; a convivial man with a sly sense of humor who loves his wife, and is passionate about wine and music. But Kubu is a capable, wily policeman determined to rid Botswana of crime, no matter what gets in his way.

In A CARRION DEATH, Kubu is faced with a vicious plot involving blood diamonds, greed, and corruption, with a touch of the supernatural. The book is set in the arid south of Botswana and in the capital city, Gaborone.

A CARRION DEATH was shortlisted for best debut mystery novel for the BARRY, MACAVITY and STRAND MAGAZINE CRITICS' awards. It was also shortlisted for the UK's Crime Writers Association DEBUT DAGGER award, and for the Minnesota Book Awards Genre Fiction.

In THE SECOND DEATH OF GOODLUCK TINUBU, Kubu has to investigate the murder of two supposed tourists at a camp in the lush north of the country along the beautiful Linyanti river. Across the river lie Namibia and Zimbabwe. Kubu has to delve into the past and the Rhodesian Bush War to unravel the mystery of the modern day killings.

DEATH OF THE MANTIS is set in the Kalahari and the back story is the plight of the Bushman (or San) peoples of the area. When a game ranger is found dead in a dry ravine, his corpse surrounded by three Bushmen, the local police arrest the nomads. Kubu investigates the case and is reunited with his old school friend Khumanego, a Bushman and advocate for his people. Khumanego claims the nomads are innocent and the arrests motivated by racist antagonism. The Bushmen are released, but soon after, another man is murdered in similar circumstances. Are the Bushmen to blame, or is it a copycat murder? Then there is a third murder. Again it points to the Bushmen. Kubu journeys into the depths of the Kalahari to find the truth. All his powers of detection are tested as well as his ability to stay alive...

DEATH OF THE MANTIS has been shortlisted for the ANTHONY and EDGAR awards for best paperback original mystery of 2011, as well as for Minnesota Book Awards Genre Fiction. The book won the BARRY Award for best paperback original mystery.

DEADLY HARVEST - the fourth Detective Kubu mystery - revolves around the pervasive belief in black magic in southern Africa and the potions of witch doctors who still produce great fear in many of the local people.

A DEATH IN THE FAMILY is the latest in the series. The backstory is the growing role of the Chinese in Africa and the pound of flesh they want for their aid and support. For Kubu it's very personal because his father is the death in the family - he is murdered apparently for no reason. Kubu battles with his grief at the same time as violence and corruption at the highest level.

We enjoy both a local and transglobal collaboration, mainly via e-mail and Skype. Michael lives in Johannesburg, South Africa; Stanley spends half the year in coastal South Africa and half in Minnesota.

For more about us, our books and Botswana, see

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By G. C. Brown on September 12, 2011
Format: Paperback
It's always gratifying to see writers mature. With the third book in the Detective Kubu series Michale Stanley have hit their ("their" as in Micheal Sears and Stanly Trollip) stride. The first two books in the series were good...but Mantis is GREAT. The storytelling is so tight (and taut!) that you don't want to put the book down. I found myself at 4 AM saying "just one more chapter...". And, as with the the other books, Botswana itself is just as much a character as the people that inhabit the book. I can't wait for book four!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Patto TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 30, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The third Detective Kubu mystery takes us into the elusive world of the First People of Botswana, commonly called Bushmen. Kubu had a Bushman friend in primary school who taught him how to look beyond the obvious. This wily approach to reading subtle signs in nature eventually led Kubu to police work.

And so it's quite fitting that this book brings Kubu back to the Bushman culture and worldview.

Death of the Mantis has a simpler plot than previous books, so I won't say anything about it - just that I really appreciated the tight circularity of the story. The Michael Stanley team gets more adept with every Kubu mystery!

I loved spending days sweating and freezing in the Kalahari Desert. I was fascinated to learn something about Bushman arrow poisons and hallucinogens. And it was a pleasure watching Kubu extricate himself from impossible situations.

The tightness of the plot is only apparent at the end! Throughout, both Kubu and the reader get sidetracked and bemused repeatedly. And the story is rich in characters and incidents. We meet shy Bushmen who know how to make themselves invisible, murder victims as out of control as the murderer, and detectives with warring theories. Meanwhile Kubu's love affair with his wife intensifies, despite the complications of a new baby.

Serious Kubu fans can try making his favorite non-alcoholic drink, Steelworks. See instructions (of a sort) on page 38.

I always appreciate the maps and Authors Notes in these mysteries. It seems that certain episodes in this book really happened. And the bed and breakfast farm near Tsabong actually exists. Wish I could go there. But at least I got a fictional visit!

Kubu hates waiting around for anything, and I do too. Hope the next book is coming soon.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By E. Crowley VINE VOICE on September 8, 2011
Format: Paperback
I always have a book with me and, often, when I am asked about the book and I mention the title, the author, and the genre, the response is, "I don't read mysteries. I don't like Agatha Christie." Fact is, I don't like Agatha Christie. If that style was all there is in mystery, I wouldn't be reading mysteries either but the popularity of the genre shows that most readers do know how far mysteries have come, incorporating societal problems into stories, making them more believable and more thought-provoking.

Michael Stanley's DEATH OF THE MANTIS is a case in point. The body of a game ranger is found in the Kalahari desert in Botswana. When the police arrive, they find three Bushmen with the dying man, trying to give him water. Monzo has suffered a severe injury to his head and he dies before reaching the hospital. The men who discover the body are arrested for the murder. There is no evidence that the Bushmen were involved but in Botswana it is case closed, no need to look for other suspects.

Assistant Superintendent David Bengu, known as Kubu to everyone, receives a call from a childhood friend, Khumanego, a Bushmen. He and David had attended school together, drawn to each other because neither fit in. But they have lost touch over the years and each knows little about the adult life of the other. As boys, Khumanego had taken Kubu to the desert and showed him how to survive. Now Kubu tries to survive among animals of the two-legged variety and serpents more dangerous than those who hide under rocks. Khumanego is an advocate and spokesman for his people, helping the Bushmen whose life style is minunderstood and whose group is denegrated.

Khumanego tells Kubu, "The Bushmen see things very differently from other peoples....
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
The story opens with a prologue set in the 1950s involving Gibiwasi (a young bushman) and his father, and their visit to an important sacred spot in the Kalahari Desert known as `The Place'. Gibiwasi's father enjoins him not to tell anyone about The Place, except his own eldest son when the time comes.

In the present, Monzo, a ranger from the Transfrontier Park is found dead by two of his colleagues. There are three Bushmen with him and while they say that they had only just arrived and were trying to revive him, Detective Lerako does not believe them and they are arrested for murder. Detective David Bengu (`Kubu' - meaning hippopotamus in Setswana), who works in Gabarone (the capital of Botswana) is contacted by his old school friend Khumanego. Khumanego, a bushman, is now an advocate for Bushmen and their traditions, and claims that the Bushmen are innocent and are being persecuted for cultural reasons. There really is no reason for Kubu to be involved in this case and his boss Mabaku says no, until a reporter gets wind of it and threatens to write a story about the bad treatment of the Bushmen. So, for political reasons, Kubu becomes involved and then the case becomes more complicated because of a second murder: a white man in an isolated part of the Kalahari. And then, there is a third murder ... Can Kubu find the killer, and why have these men been murdered? And how will Kubu's wife Joy and their new daughter Tumi, handle his absence?
This novel is an interesting mix of Kubu's work as a detective and tales of his domestic life, of his battle with weight and of his wife's adjustment to life with a young baby. There's insight, too, into the life of the Kalahari Bushmen and the challenges posed by the Kalahari Desert.
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