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In early 20th century British East Africa, there are rules for the British and rules for the Africans. Vera McIntosh, the daughter of Scottish missionaries, doesn't feel she belongs to either group; having grown up in Africa, she is not interested in being the well-bred Scottish woman her mother would like her to be. More than anything she dreams of seeing again the handsome police officer she's danced with.
But more grisly circumstances bring Justin Tolliver to her family's home. The body of Vera's uncle, Dr. Josiah Pennyman, is found with a tribesman's spear in his back. Tolliver, an idealistic Assistant District Superintendent of Police, is assigned to the case.
He first focuses on Gichinga Mbura, a Kikuyu medicine man who has been known to hatefully condemn Pennyman because Pennyman's cures are increasingly preferred over his. But the spear belonged to the Maasai tribe, not Kikuyu, and it's doubtful Mbura would have used it to kill his enemy. Tolliver's superior wants him to arrest the medicine man and be done with it, but Tolliver pleads that he have the chance to prove the man's guilt. With the help of Kwai Libazo, a tribal lieutenant, Tolliver discovers that others had reasons to hate Pennyman as well, and the list of suspects grows.
This is a romantic and engaging mystery that captures the beauty and the danger of the African wild and the complexities of imposing a culture on a foreign land.