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Nairobi Heat

Part of Melville International Crime

In Madison, Wisconsin, it’s a big deal when African peace activist Joshua Hakizimana—who saved hundreds of people from the Rwandan genocide—accepts a position at the university to teach about “genocide and testimony.” Then a young woman is found murdered on his doorstep.

Local police Detective Ishmael—an African-American in an “extremely white” town—suspects the crime is racially motivated; the Ku Klux Klan still holds rallies there, after all. But then he gets a mysterious phone call: “If you want the truth you must go to its source. The truth is in the past. Come to Nairobi.”

It’s the beginning of a journey that will take him to a place still vibrating from the genocide that happened arounds its borders, where violence is a part of everyday life, where big-oil money rules, and where the local cops shoot first and ask questions later—a place, in short, where knowing the truth about history can get you killed.


MUKOMA WA NGUGI was born in Illinois but raised in Kenya. The son of world renowned African writer and Nobel contender, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, his own poetry and fiction has been shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African writing in 2009), and for the 2010 Penguin Prize for African Writing. He is currently based in Cleveland, Ohio, where he teaches at Case Western University.

“Nairobi Heat takes us to Kenya with a refreshing authority… Besides the usual fun and thrill of crime novels, what makes the book a delicious read is that it’s also packed with engaged and relevant social commentary.” —NoViolet Bulawayo chooses Nairobi Heat for her summer reading on the New York Times’s Room for Debate blog

”If you’re weary of the glut of Scandinavian crime fiction, take a trip to Kenya’s teeming capital city.” —The New York Post

”A fast-paced hard-boiled crime novel… We suggest you pick up a copy if you know what’s good for you.” —Flavorwire

”Just as the works of James Ellroy and Carl Hiaasen dig beneath the glitter of Hollywood and South Beach, respectively, to reveal a nasty, fetid underside, [Nairobi Heat] rips away images of the Sahara and safaris and goes beyond nightly news pictures of deprivation.” —The Fort Worth Star-Telegram 

Nairobi Heat is a gripping evocation of the collision of two intertwined worlds—the USA and Kenya—which are unraveled by violence, greed, and prejudice.” —Margie Orford, author of Like Clockwork and Blood Rose 

”Ishmael Fofona, Ngugi’s detective, may not as yet have taken over from Kurt Wallander in our affections, but … it’s only a matter of time.” —The Telegraph (UK)

”Compelling … nothing is what it appears to be, and just as the reader begins to suspect that Ngugi’s novel has embarked upon a disappointing denouement, both literarily and ethically, he smacks his last pages in our face to thrilling effect.” Maclean’s

”Sizzling…an action-packed cross-cultural ride, crackling with detail garnered from the author’s experience reporting on the African communities in which this story is set.” —Barnes & Noble Review

Nairobi Heat rises above being just great ’international noir’ … it veers into violent territory that most whodunits and police procedurals don’t explore. …Ngugi writes great noir in this somewhat disturbing, but beautiful piece of crime fiction that breathes that rarified air of great fiction.” —Blogcritics

“Ngugi’s ability to weave a complex narrative, which connects crime and racial tensions in the US to an in-depth knowledge of Kenya and its nuances, to Rwanda and its genocide past within this African crime thriller, is nothing but the work of a genius craftsman and wordsmith.” —New African Magazine

“Nairobi Heat’s biggest triumph is the way it forces us to re-examine accepted narratives and received truths.” The Mail & Guardian (South Africa)

”A welcome discovery.” —

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