Monday, March 01, 2010

True Murder by Yaba Badoe

Whenever a thunderstorm occurred during Ajuba's childhood in Ghana, a superstitious maid would rush to cover all the mirrors.

It was said in her village that the reflection of lightning in a mirror could kill you. What was even more terrifying were the ghosts in mirrors. Lightning could reveal them. Her people believed that during a thunderstorm, if you looked carefully, hovering behind your reflection you'd see the faces of your enemies.

After a series of miscarriages and stillbirths, Ajuba's parents' marriage disintegrates and her mother--seeing a multitude of enemies in her mirror--sinks into mental illness. Ajuba is placed in loco parentis in a rural public school in England, where she eventually connects with another newcomer, Polly Venus, whose own parents are headed toward divorce. The 11-year-olds find human bones wrapped away in a trunk in Polly's attic and, influenced by the girls' shared obsession with true crime stories, spend a summer vacation together attempting to pinpoint the murderer. Meanwhile, Polly's mother becomes increasingly unhinged and it is Ajuba, not Polly, who worries over her decline.

And just how much worrying over Ajuba should the reader engage in when she reveals she's "reached a state of acute sensitivity in which other people's thoughts and emotions merged" with her own--particularly those of a violent sort?

Narrated by an adult Ajuba, who has been unable to bear looking in mirrors since her time with Polly's family, True Murder is an attempt to lay ghosts to rest by recounting the events leading up to her friend's death. Although readers are told on the first page of this death, Yaba Badoe, who's worked as both a journalist and documentary film-maker before turning to fiction, serves up an impressively shocking and creepy ending.

Published in the UK in 2009, True Murder still doesn't have a U.S. pub date. Thank goodness for the Book Depository and its free shipping policy.


  1. This one sounds very intriguing to me. I can't wait for it to be available in the States.

  2. Sounds like a good one! I'll be on the lookout for it. Thanks for the review!


"I don't believe in ghosts, but I see them all the time."

Sherman Alexie cancels book tour for memoir about his mother.