“She knew these girls, these women. She understood their world. For them, prostitution was not a choice; it was a lack of choice.” Amaka, a gutsy lawyer trying to protect the sex workers of Lagos, knows that most of them will never get off the streets. Leye Adenle’s thriller Easy Motion Tourist is their story.
All Amaka wants is that the women in her care stay as safe as possible under the circumstances. Sometimes keeping them simply alive is as much as she can hope for. She establishes a secret network of contacts and a database of details on clients who pay for sex. The women Amaka works with can phone in and keep tabs on each other’s movements. Then, one day, one of the prostitutes turns up mutilated and dead in front of a bar where Guy, a British journalist, is trying against better judgement to appease his curiosity about local nightlife: “I was a white boy in Africa for the first time, on assignment to cover a presidential election that was still weeks away, the outcome of which was a foregone conclusion. This was only my second day in Lagos and the first night I’d gone out alone – exactly what I’d been advised not to do.”
Witness to the body-dump, Guy is arrested for questioning and rescued by Amaka at the police station where he see another gruesome murder of a suspect in police custody and has to fear the worst for himself. Together with the streetwise and brave Amaka, he embarks on a mission to find out who is behind the horrific killing of the prostitute, but he is completely out of his depth. He pretends to work for the BBC but is actually a reporter for a start-up internet TV news channel.
Guy decides to write about what he had witnessed, suspecting like everyone else that the murder was one of many ritual killings. “Every time there is an election we find dead bodies everywhere,” he is told; people are “doing juju to win elections”. During the investigation Guy begins to fall for Amaka, but is unsure whether she returns his feelings.
The story of the murder is reported on CNN, causing a lot of unease among the Lagos elites. Pressure is put on police inspector Ibrahim to solve the case and to protect the affluent from the ensuing chaos. A lot seems to be at stake, but no one truly knows what is happening behind the scenes and who is the mysterious Malik. Is he running the show? Is someone killing these women for witchcraft or illegal organ trade?
From luxurious hotel rooms to the gutters of Lagos, Easy Motion Tourist presents an uneasy, brutal metropolis where only the toughest survive: “a city of armed robbers, assassinations and now, it seemed, ‘ritualists’ had to be added to the list.” But among the ruthless violence and corruption there are rays of light, and Easy Motion Tourist offers an intriguing ending which might mean a promising sequel.
Easy Motion Tourist
by Leye Adenle
Cassava Republic Press, 2016
An edited version of this review appeared in the Cape Times on 10 March 2017.