By Annamaria Alfieri


Publisher: Felony & Mayhem Press (2016)
Format: Paperback
Price: $14.95
ISBN-13: 978-1-63194-100-9

Kindle edition: $7.99


Vera and Tolliver Series (Book 2)


Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

1912: British East Africa. Joseph Gautura, a slave since age nine, has had enough of sending others into slavery. He’s the overseer of Khalid Majidi’s illicit trade in human beings and illegal ivory. One dark night he flees Majid’s household to seek sanctuary with Rev. Morley, a Methodist missionary near Mombasa. Morley is a staunch and very vocal opponent of slavery. The British outlawed slavery a few years before, but the Arab majority refuses to give up a centuries-old tradition. Majidi, one of the most powerful men in the region, confronts Morley, demanding the return of his property. Morley tells him it will be over his dead body. Famous last words.
At the same time, newlyweds Vera and Justin Tolliver arrive from their honeymoon in Great Britain to start their new life in Mombasa. Vera is the daughter of a missionary at the Scottish Mission in Nairobi. She was born and raised there, and knows East Africa well. Justin is Assistant Superintendent police officer for the British Protectorate, recently assigned to the Nairobi office. The second son of an earl, he could have aimed for a more prestigious profession, but he likes what he does. Vera is no docile, proper English wife; she knows her own mind and will do what she thinks best, even if her husband doesn’t approve. They get along very well in their own unique, non-traditional fashion.

The two are rarities in this insular colonial community. Vera speaks Swahili and has empathy for the local people, whom she treats kindly. Justin treats his African underlings with respect in a society where the ruling white government sees the natives as inferiors, there to do their bidding. The Tollivers’s unusual behavior offends their British peers, but they will not bow to an outdated system.

Justin is sent to Morley’s mission to mediate between Morley and Majidi over the future of Joseph Gautura. He’s too late, though: Joseph has been murdered. The search for his killer opens up a world of intrigue and danger. Ugly secrets turn up, including human trafficking and corruption on the highest levels. The unpleasant but historically accurate ill-treatment of the native Africans under colonial rule is laid bare.  In contrast, the bravery and compassion of the missionaries, the enlightened viewpoint of people like Vera and Justin, the kindness and empathy of Rev. Morley’s sister Katherine, and friendships of people of differing faiths and social class give hope that things are changing for the better. 

This excellent book gives the reader a look into the history and culture of East Africa and its troubled colonial history. Justin and Vera are multi-layered characters, likable, and believable. The lush setting is a character in itself, recalling a time and a place long gone. The Tollivers’s sleuthing skills and personal interactions bring to mind other detective duos of the time. Fans of Elizabeth Peters Peabody and Emerson in Victorian Egypt and Anne Perry’s Inspector Thomas Pitt and wife Charlotte in Victorian England will enjoy this series. I look forward to the next installment in this series. Highly recommended.

Copyright 2017 Shirley Wetzel. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!

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