Welling Waki Oloo

Created by J.N. Catanach
Pseudonym of Henry Pelham Burn

Kenya believe it? An African eye!

In J.N. Catanach’s Brideprice, it’s 1978, and Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first Black president is in charge. Meanwhile, twenty-two year-old Stephanie Duncan has just returned to Kenya for the first time in twelve years, still unsure as to why she was shipped off to Canada twelve years ago, after her parents’ still unexplained death while competing in the 1966 East African Safari Rally.

She takes a room at the Nairobi YMCA, and starts to poke around, determined to retrace her parents’ last ride. Given that the course for the rally is 3000 miles long, it looks like someone’s got some driving to do. And then WELLING WAKI OLOO, a rather unorthodox private investigator working in Nairobi, shows up, offering to help.

No charge, he says. His services will be covered by an anonymous client.

The general consensus seems to be that while Brideprice seems to offer a little something for everyone (Action! Romance! Coming of Age! Murder!), the book works best as a travelogue, while the mystery angle itself is weak. Still, the vividly rendered settings may be enough for some folks. I mean, a 3000-mile drive along the course of the world-famous rally?

Come on!

Author J.N. Catanach (real name pseudonym of Henry Pelham Burn) is a Scot, living in New York. His other mysteries include White Is the Color of Death and Lullaby for the Dead, set in Maylaysia and Africa, respectively.


  • “Only the exotic locale and culture of Nairobi, which are depicted vividly, along with an interesting, offbeat private eye, distinguish this otherwise uninspiring novel.”
    — Publishers Weekly
  • “If not for the exotic locale and persistent smatterings of Swahili, this second novel ( White Is the Color of Death ) would sink in a mire of hackneyed prose. Very little suspense and fewer surprises make this a marginal buy.”
    — Library Journal
  • “In this atmospheric adventure through Kenya, Mr. Catanach (the author of one previous mystery, “White Is the Color of Death”) takes Stephanie over the same treacherous safari route, guided (and deliberately misguided) by an endlessly entertaining cast of characters….Without quite realizing it, she has also rediscovered her feelings for her native land, described here in a style that is detailed and subtle and in a tone that is quietly, beautifully haunting.”
    — The New York Times Book Review (June 1998)



Respectfully compiled by Kevin Burton Smith.

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