The Headhunter’s Daughter

Written by Tamar Myers
Review by Kristen Hannum

A baby disappears in the Belgian Congo in 1945, and 13 years later a young white girl is “rescued” from the headhunting Bashilele tribe that raised her. This quirky historical mystery has more to do with painting a picture of colonial realities in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo than with solving puzzles of who done it. Or rather, the puzzles here involve far bigger questions than simple problems like murder or kidnapping. Myers, the daughter of missionaries and author of more than 30 other mysteries, writes with dark humor about the place and times of her childhood.

This book is the second of a new series for Myers and features several ongoing characters, including likable Amanda Brown, a young missionary new to the Congo, and her servant, the quick-thinking Cripple, first wife of a nearby witch doctor. The two must cope with hypocritical racist missionaries, pragmatic racist Belgians, and revolutionary houseboys awaiting independence. Myers describes with a sure hand the dozens of tribes whose scorn for Americans and Europeans is exceeded only by their contempt for other African tribes. Humans aren’t the only danger here: deadly mambas, the spirits of the dead, and voracious driver ants all create a world that is as wonderfully, colorfully, and sometimes horribly far from the boredoms of suburbia as can be imagined.