Muti-Nation by Monique Snyman is a one-sitting horror whodunnit, packed with the dark magic of Africa, and bursting with gore, fear, and creep.
In essence: Muti Nation by Monique Snyman
Esme Snyders has got one of those jobs you’d kill to have, if it didn’t kill you first. She’s an occult investigator, working for her grandfather’s firm, and the team have already got their hands full when we’re first introduced. Unfortunately for her, Esme stands out, especially to people who believe there is something intrinsically magical about courage and power. It doesn’t take long for her to become one of the hunted, even as she tracks a serial killer who has far worse than just people to answer to.
Muti Nation is one of those books that shows you how spiritual belief can drag people to their unpleasant destinies, but instead of making it all about imagination and superstition, Snyman gives you something quite tangible to be afraid of. Take tokoloshe, for example. Or don’t – it isn’t a good thing at all! In magical terms, if you’re into that kind of thing, South Africa is one of those places where the veil between the worlds is very thin. Crazed and terrifying small creatures are, by far, not the only thing to give you the creeps, and this beautifully written novel makes the most of South Africa’s spiritual legacy on its people.
What’s the ‘muti’ part of the book?
The world is very much aware of the problem of so-called muti killings – even the UK noticed when the torso of a boy (later named ‘Adam’) washed up in the Thames in 2001 – but muti magic isn’t all bad. In fact, rather than the name ‘muti’ being taken from the English word ‘mutilation’, as is probably assumed by many, it’s actually from an isi-Zulu word that means ‘tree’.
Muti magic when worked by a sangoma is a positive healing magic, often derived from trees, plants, and minerals. However, the practice of muti extends right across the range of materials that can be used in magic, into animal and human body parts that can be used by witches for long live, sexual virility, and prophecy. A sangoma is a pure being – a healer; a witch is not.
Will you like it?
Smooth, beautifully flowing, and easy to read, this book is a one-sitting job for a plane journey, an evening in with a glass of wine, or a particularly nasty storm outside. The characters are likeable, understandable, and there are even a couple of reasonably steamy love affairs to satisfy that need. It’s also a true whodunnit; keeps you guessing almost to the end, despite the fact that you’re introduced to the troubled mind of the killer very early on.
Muti Nation by Monique Snyman is a charming introduction to the dark depths of South Africa. It’s entertaining, funny in places, and thoroughly modern. It’s a dark subject, written with a light touch, by an author who is really very young, so it’s great for adults who don’t feel they have time to read, and if your kids are mid-teens and they’re into their horror, this one’s probably going to open up their worlds that bit more. If you can stand the really scary bits (they really are!), you’re in for a thrilling ride of murder, attraction, and some really unpleasant ancestors.