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  • Mandy McHugh

Lightseekers, Femi Kayode: A Review

The old adage about judging a book by its cover is a good one, but in this case, the cover is exactly what caught my eye, and after reading the summary, I was intrigued and quickly dove in.

Dr. Philip Taiwo is a respected Nigerian investigative psychologist called upon to look into the public torture and murder of three young students, dubbed the Okriki Three. Wary of the task but unable to turn away, he heads to Port Harcourt. With the help of his driver, Chika, Philip embarks on a harrowing and complex trip to find the truth, realizing that the tumultuous sociopolitical landscape might reveal more about the deaths than he originally anticipated--a fact that might put his own life in danger. I loved this book. Philip is an interesting character for several reasons. First, his layered voice is authentic and highly engrossing. His personal problems remain a sticking point throughout the narrative, and this adds to his internal conflict about a burgeoning friendship with Salome. Additionally, we experience PH through his lens which is at times at odds with his objective. On the one hand, Philip is an outsider, an Americano, not from the town or familiar with the day-to-day routines, despite having familial ties to the area. On the other hand, he feels a strong sense of obligation to his father and his heritage. He combats this duality at crucial points, wanting to be accepted but also realizing that he cannot be accepted. His frame of reference causes him to react to things Chika finds normal, and this juxtaposition is also reflected in his descriptions of the setting. We get the extremes: a glamorous hotel with concierge service and buffets--and the dirt roads, no electricity, violence, and religious upheaval in the city. The Otherness Philip's character explores is such a relevant topic, especially given the current climate. Much like his investigation into the Okriki Three, we, the reader, are forced to confront our own biases and shortcomings, our own inherent worldly assumptions and how our views are shaped by the experiences in our community. Yes, this is an excellent suspense about one man's quest to find the truth, but it is also a literary reflection on Nigerian culture, political and religious intricacies, the far-reaching consequences of social media and weaponization of technology, and the role of family/community in the larger picture of duty and morality. Lightseekers is a smart, taut read with purpose and poise. If you put any book on your 2021 TBR, let it be this one. I will definitely be re-reading again and look forward to more Philip Taiwo stories in the future. Big thanks to Mulholland and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.

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