The Battōsai discusses family and crime in Toni Kan’s The Carnivorous City

The story centers on Sunderland Dike a.k.a Soni a.k.a Sabato Rabato, a criminal who has managed to amass unbelievable wealth while also living the dream- an ocean-view mansion, a beautiful wife, a lovely son, millions in several bank accounts, a fleet of expensive cars and lots of ‘big’ girls and woman at his beck and call. His house of cards however, comes tumbling down when he is reported missing, his Jaguar found in a ditch somewhere in Lagos. Enter Abel, his docile, passive, compliant, unassuming and almost gullible elder brother whose English literature centered life suddenly suffers a life and status altering change when he is thrust into an unfamiliar world of unimaginable wealth, in a not-so-familiar city.

The book then proceeds to take us on an exploratory discovery of Lagos, as Abel tries to find his missing brother, while also giving us graphic descriptions of all the virtues and vices that make up this carnivorous city.

In my opinion, the novel attempts to be a typical crime fiction but it didn’t quite cut it because for me, it seemed more like a book on the metamorphosis of Abel from the good brother into Cain, the tainted evil brother.

Another low point for me was the explicit sex scenes- they were rather crude. I can just picture myself getting all squeamish and uncomfortable if such scenes are been read out loud at a book reading, where I’m eyeing a cute crush.

I also dislike the fact that Abel’s character was given the picture of a rather slow and passive human, almost like a mumu who was not street wise at all. I mean, Asaba is not exactly a village and he shouldn’t be that naive! This brings me to the other characters in the novel. Most of them did not exactly captivate me. Calista came across to me as a nymphomaniac who was addicted to sex (and was generous with it). Ada was the typical trophy wife. Santos embodies the usual distant relative who will get greedy at some point and so on.

Also going by some of Abel’s recurring thoughts about what will become of him if Soni is eventually found, I feel that the book was bordered more on the aftermath of what will happen if Soni is found, rather than on the actual process of finding him. In other words, I feel the author should have exploited crime solving and delved deeper into finding the missing brother than embarking on an excursion to introduce us (and Abel) to the many fun spots in Lagos.

I also couldn’t relate with the fact that one brother’s disappearance can alter the other’s whole existence in such a short time but then, we are human beings and I guess humans are the most unpredictable creations of God.  However, I liked the pictographic portrayal of the various areas of Lagos- they were almost given human character-like qualities.

The book depicted the men of the Nigerian Police as professionals who can be efficient at their job if and when they choose to be.  This is a break from the norm and it is quite refreshing. Another plus for me is the titling of each chapter- they were very apt.

I also enjoyed the fact that the book contained some semblance of suspense. At a point, everybody was a suspect in Soni’s disappearance- Santos, Ada, Dr. Nicole and even Auntie Ekwi. They all had motives to get rid of him, however slight.

In summary, the book was quite interesting- It exploited the themes of desire, love, family and greed and I was eager to know what the end would be but I felt it was more of a book on self-discovery than a true crime thriller with all its attendant violence and gore. I’ll rate it a 6 out of 10.

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