A Review of Chasing Façades
In Chasing Façades, Tayo Dabi is a young female detective solving crimes in Elizabeth Olushola Adeolu’s debut novel. This book is what will be the first of many in Kachifo’s new imprint – Farafina Breeze; an imprint that was formed for genre or ‘commercial’ writing such as this. Also though Chasing Façades is a self-contained tale, it is clear that the heroine will continue to solve other crimes in other novels, as is the case of the many fictional detective heroes and heroines that came before her.
In this particular story, Tayo is given the murder of a wealthy contractor as her first solo case which, as scenarios go, seemed unlikely at best. After all, who would give the murder case of a highly respected and influential member of society to an individual who had never worked a case alone; even if she was a ‘rising star’? However, despite these little abnormalities, the idea of a Nigerian detective agency in play, due to the incompetencies of the police force, was credible. Haven’t we all heard the tales of police being bribed, turning up too late to an emergency situation, or not turning up at all? Nigeria is the perfect environment for vigilante and detective stories and Adeolu was able to explore this with her independent and intelligent heroine.
“But you should tell the police now,” Dike said.
“For wetin? The first time dey came, dey arrested many of dem but dey later settle dem. We can’t trust dem anymore,” the short one whispered and put one hand to his cheek.
Though Tayo is a detective, she is also a normal relatable woman. She has a mother who turns up unannounced and worries about her career and her living situation; she has a colleague who just won’t take no for an answer; and a guy she likes but who has ‘it’s complicated’ written all over him. She is stressed at work and plagued with doubts about her ability to do her job well; and all this whilst she is trying to discover who killed the contractor, and why.
The novel is in 1st person and so we see the plot through the eyes of the heroine, as she tries to navigate the complications she faces. It was certainly entertaining to read about a young Nigerian female living alone, working in crime and carrying a gun. The other characters in the novel are neither all good nor all bad, though in her eagerness to lead the reader first in the wrong direction, before delivering the fait acompli, Adeolu lost the sense of ‘oh yes, of course!’ that the reader would have experienced, had Adeolu left even the slightest clue about the killer along the way.
Chasing Façades is not a fast-paced novel. If anything, it goes at a leisurely pace, but Adeolu filled these pauses between the main plot with sub-plots that were engaging. As is the case with many detective novels, it takes the time to note the problems of the society we live in and the issues we face as individuals.
“…You know I get the impression that arresting these ones will just be a matter of scraping off the fungus on the spoilt food without actually washing the plate. They have no education, no jobs, they are going to be back; maybe not the same people we arrested, but another crop will take their place,” I said.
In creating a fictional state, Adeolu was able to avoid the boundaries and restrictions that often come with trying to replicate a real setting for a fantastical tale. Sonowea seems plausible as far as Nigerian states go and the fictional status of the setting did not in any way detract from the story she told.
As debut novels go, Adeolu has proven herself to be free of the conventions of ‘Nigerian’ writing; if not necessarily the conventions of detective writing.