The Headhunter's Daughter
An Amanda Brown Mystery by Tamar Myers
Review: It is 1958, and there are reports of a young white woman living among the native Bashilele in Belgian Congo, which prompts an American missionary to investigate in The Headhunter's Daughter, the second mystery in this series by Tamar Myers.
Amanda Brown travels with a local police officer and a translator deep into the jungle to locate the woman. Finding her isn't hard, but the journey there is fraught with danger. Upon arriving at the bushman's camp, she learns the woman, known as Ugly Eyes, is the daughter of the tribe leader, but it is obvious that her parents were surely European or possibly American, most certainly not Bashilele. Determined to "rescue" Ugly Eyes, Amanda insists the young woman be allowed to accompany her back to her mission house. Her father agrees one the condition that he can come along as well.
Soon thereafter Amanda begins to suspect that Ugly Eyes may be the girl who, as a baby, was kidnapped and presumed killed 13 years earlier, the crime unsolved to this day, raising even more questions about her. Was she found by the Bashilele, and if so, why did they choose to raise her as their own? And possibly more importantly, who kidnapped her in the first place?
Most of the narrative in The Headhunter's Daughter — especially during the first half — can be described as a slice of life in late 1950s Belgian Congo prior to independence, written from the perspective of all parties involved. (It takes some time to get used to the rapid transitions between points of view.) The countryside is vividly depicted, and provides a fascinating backdrop for the action. This is all interesting in and of itself, but it also does little to contribute to the plotline involving the mystery of Ugly Eye's origin. A preface provides the operational details of what happened in 1945, but does not identify the culprit who arranged for the kidnapping. The answer to that open question isn't addressed until well into the second half of the book.
There is much to admire about The Headhunter's Daughter, though it frequently seems heavy-handed in its approach to describing life in the region during this time period. That the whodunit-style mystery storyline appears to be secondary to all else, however, is a little disappointing.
Acknowledgment: HarperCollins provided a copy of The Headhunter's Daughter for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in The Headhunter's Daughter: Belgian Congo
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The Headhunter's Daughter by Tamar Myers — An Amanda Brown Mystery
Publisher: William Morrow
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: January 2011
List Price: $13.99
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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