Thursday, May 28, 2015
Review of Bound to Secrecy by Vamba Sherif (Hope Road Publishing, 2015)
Bound to Secrecy is a relatively short novel (183 pages) set in rural Liberia, that blends together elements of crime fiction and political and social observation concerning the intersection of community and familial relations in a small town, local power and governance from a distance, and rational and supernatural beliefs. The tale follows the exploits of William Mawolo, considered a rising star in the Ministry of the Interior, as he tries to discover what happened to a local chief who has disappeared. His every move is either countered or tentatively supported by the local townspeople as they try to gauge who is most likely to win out, the local power players or the man sent by the national government. All the time, Mawolo is never sure what is truth and lies and who to trust or fear and he becomes increasingly assertive, impulsive and erratic. The tale is quite tightly told in expressive prose and it unfolds at a steady clip. However, the reader is dropped straight into the tale and my sense was some additional historical and political context throughout would have been useful. Moreover, the narrative is a little jerky, seemingly turning through a series of right angles as Mawolo falls out with locals or his mood swings. The result was an interesting read, but one in which I was never quite fully hooked.