In Port Harcourt, Nigeria, detective Tamunoemi Peterside investigates a bombing at the residence of gubernatorial candidate Pius Okpara. The obvious main suspect is a fixer who works for Okpara’s political opponent, Dr. Puene, but Peterside’s chief orders him to drop the case because he’s off track. “Powerful, highly placed men don’t have to resort to murder. That’s what money is for.” And besides, the suspect is part of a bigger investigation into a crime family. Peterside doesn’t drop the case, of course. Bodies pile up as witnesses, Dr. Puene’s associates, and even Peterside’s own friends and colleagues become targets.
Treachery in the Yard is a straightforward, uncluttered police procedural, although respect for procedure among the Nigerian police often appears nominal. Peterside admits he doesn’t have patience for procedure and just does what he needs to do. The spare story matches the leanness of police assets, where computers are rare and officers still rely on paper and “experience, common sense, instinct, judgment.” Unfortunately, the universal police problem of distrust within the department plagues Nigeria, too.
This first novel is to be the beginning of a Lt. Peterside series, and a laudable addition to crime literature from a less familiar part of the world. Perhaps future books will include more extensive details of Nigerian daily life, such as a wonderful description of the popular meal of pounded yam and bitterleaf soup. Nonetheless, simple as the writing of Treachery in the Yard may be, the crime is tangled. Ibe has figured out how to keep readers guessing to the end.