The mystery-thriller genre in Nigeria has got a new pacesetter. Lightseekers indulge in our mundane Nigerianness- think of strikes, cultism, and revenge- to create a breathtaking plot and dopamine accentuating pace.
Femi Kayode’s characters are Nigerians in their totality, except perhaps John Paul, whose characterization is a suppressed characterization in African fiction. Kayode knows this limitation, and he uses the classic American mystery template to build an in-depth, almost relatable villain. But he doesn’t stop there, he makes us realize that a character like John Paul is often on the sidelines. “There will always be a Tamuno (John Paul) around us. You see it everywhere. Politicians. Businessmen. People who prey on our fear of each other for their selfish gains.” But they all do it in subtle, harmful yet praised ways.
The character of Beatrice falls in the field of more conveniently formed than realistically possible. It makes you wonder what the likelihood is of Dr Taiwo meeting a woman who has 5-star accommodations for him, knows everyone in the village, and can easily be a romantic figure. It was too stereotypical. However, her legal ‘betrayal’ punctured a hole in her stereotypical caricature.
Kayode’s plot stand tall, and he plays the Agatha Christy game card of revealing our culprit early on, but in an off-handed by-pass. The intrigue hardens when the President of a national bank is ready to commit murder just to attack his grief. And avenge his son whose innocence is unbalanced.
Femi Kayode vistas into the Nigerian University life and the beneficial but uncomfortable symbiosis with their native environment. ‘Look around my town, Dr Taiwo,’ The Chief uses his walking stick to sweep the air in an arc. ‘How many youths do you see from here going to that university? How many people from this town have access to the teaching hospital without paying plenty of money? The list goes on. What has that university brought us but discontent?’
‘But you said it brought the money?’
The Chief breathed deeply. ‘Money only breeds a desire for more money. Nothing more.’
At junctures, where our dopamine might seem to be reaching intensive suspense dosage. The author puts a bit of normalcy and questions to make us back off and see the big picture. He insists with his pace that this town ‘knows who kill these three students, but it is why we should worry ourselves about.’
Ultimately, this novel takes a piece of the fabric of Nigeria that concerns youths. It weaves it in pages lacking in historical proverbs or usual African folktales, a narrative that says even the contemporary Nigeria is in as much danger as when the colonialists came to power. In a way, it is an exorcism of some sort to strip crime naked and point out the havoc it is creating.
To say the truth when lights reveal some of our secrets, like Chika’s cultist background or the darkness in Emeka. We might want to tell the light seekers. ‘Off the Mic.’ But we must remember what Beatrice says, ‘My mother’s people are not bad people,’ she says, looking down at me. ‘They’re not good either. They are just humans. What they did is inexcusable in a world that makes sense. But you’ve been here long enough to see that very little makes sense in this part of the world. And though it is not an excuse, it is the reality of what happens.’
Should you read Lightseekers?
Yes, LightSeekers is an organismic brain satisfier. You wouldn’t be able to put it down.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Femi Kayode trained as a clinical psychologist in Nigeria, before starting a career in advertising. He has created and written several primetime TV shows and recently graduated with a distinction from the University of East Anglia Creative Writing program. He lives in Windhoek, Namibia, with his wife and two sons.