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Murder at Midnight


John Ukah

Rating: ***

Retired Police Detective, Alex Simpson, is recovering from typhoid and where better to recuperate but at the Kinging Guest Lodge in Cross River State, Nigeria. He knows what a warm welcome he will receive from hotel owner, Ayuba Baba and his wife, Amina, having stayed there before. The other guests are a mixed bunch, each with skeletons in their closets. But when one of them is found murdered, can Alex work out who is the culprit?

Murder at Midnight is an entertaining, cosy mystery that I enjoyed. The book is relatively short and I thought that was a sensible decision; for a first novel in a detective series to be overly ambitious does not always pay off. The narrative in Murder at Midnight has enough twists and turns but is not too complex. Again, given the brevity of the story, Mr Ukah made some good plotting decisions.

Alex Simpson is a good lead; hints of backstory are scattered and he more than capably carries the book. All the hotel guests were nicely realised; Mr Ukah’s attention to physical detailing really brought them alive in the reader’s mind. Mrs Marshall was the standout with her profoundly insightful pearls of wisdom on life and the other guests. She could have been utilised further.

However, Mr Ukah is careful to ensure that all the guests have a role to play in the events that occur and the hotel setting ably encourages this. At times, there is too much basic, superfluous detail but the prose and dialogue have a slightly archaic tilt which is endearing and works with the narrative.

At the halfway point, we change perspective from that of Alex to a couple of the hotel guests. It’s a well-intentioned strategy but the voices are not always convincing and, consequently, slightly dilute what is a fairly compelling whodunnit.

Notwithstanding, Murder at Midnight is well worth a look for fans of the genre. It’s a very promising beginning and I would certainly read more from this Author.

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