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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Tail of the Blue Bird

Nii Ayikwei Parkes

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To purchase Tail of the Blue Bird

Title: Tail of the Blue Bird
Author: Nii Ayikwei Parkes
Genre: Novel
Written: 2009
Length: 170 pages
Availability: Tail of the Blue Bird - US
Tail of the Blue Bird - UK
Tail of the Blue Bird - Canada
El enigma del pájaro azul - España

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Our Assessment:

B : unusual police procedural, an enjoyable mix of traditional and modern life in Ghana

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent A 30/6/2009 Jonathan Gibbs

  From the Reviews:
  • "Tail of the Blue Bird is not overly ambitious, but everything it sets out to do, it does admirably. Nii Ayikwei Parkes surely knows the effect the Ghanaian dialogue will have; he doesn't translate or explain, and this additional layer of mystery (for the average British reader) only adds to the strength of its lyricism and insight." - Jonathan Gibbs, The Independent

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Most of Tail of the Blue Bird is set in the rural Ghanaian village of Sonokrom. Though only a few hours from Accra, it is a world unto itself, and traditional ways still prevail. It takes an outsider -- the girlfriend of a government minister -- to find that something is amiss, as she stumbles across something exceedingly unpleasant and, due to her connections, gets the police involved in investigating it.
       The locals seem to have been unaware of it, before the woman found it. As one of them notes, in one of the book's best lines, and one which sums up many of the differences that follow:

Sϵbi, our village is like a vagina. Those on the inside have no problems with it; those on the outside think it stinks.
       Certainly what the police have been called to investigate stinks. Are they human remains ? But there are no bones ..... An afterbirth ? It is not easy to identify, in any case.
       The police call on Kwadwo Okai Odammten, called Kayo, who had studied forensic pathology in England, and worked for several years as a crime scenes officer in the Midlands. He had applied for a job with the police but not been able to obtain one, turned down because: "forensics was 'surplus to requirements'". After all:
The Ghana Police has a ninety-nine per cent record in solving crimes through 'specialised' interrogation.
       Now that they need him, the police flex their muscle and have him removed from his tech job in laboratory, and send him to investigate. Their requirements are clear, as Inspector Donkor tells him:
I am not interested in the truth. I am interested in results. Do you understand ? I need you to make this a big case with international implications.
       Fortunately, Kayo has a pretty free hand in the investigation -- and fortunately he's both a competent investigator and someone familiar with local tradition and language. Still, the inspector is demanding a 'CSI-style' report -- even as:
Kayo had never seen a report delivered in CSI, in all the time he had been watching it, but who was he to contradict the inspector ?
       The police procedural is complicated by the very different ways of living found in the big city and in what is essentially the jungle. Kayo is at least receptive to the way the locals convey information to him, and this makes for an interesting contrast between modern ways (and science) and tradition (and superstition).
       The crime is neatly solved, both in its unusual truth and in the (very different) required results -- complete with international implications.
       As one of the locals explains to Kayo:
I am not the one to tell you what is true. I am telling you a story. On this earth we have to choose the story we tell, because it affects us -- how we live.
       A nice, satisfying, and unusual mystery, Tail of the Blue Bird could readily have been expanded into something larger -- but maybe it's the first in a series ..... Kayo is a sympathetic and interesting figure, and Parkes handles both the narrative voice of the locals -- filled with local words (no way the US publisher will release this book without a glossary, as is the case with the UK edition) and locutions --, as well as the more straightforward omniscient-narrator descriptions very well.

- M.A.Orthofer, 28 June 2009

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Tail of the Blue Bird: Reviews: Nii Ayikwei Parkes: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Ghanaian author Nii Ayikwei Parkes was born in 1974.

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