BOOK REVIEW BY ONIS SAMPSON
13th April, 2014
Author: Emmanuel Ayoola
Number of Pages: 126
Publisher: Beautiful Joy Publishers, Lagos, Nigeria
Year of Publication: 2013
COLD MURDER unveils to us an aspect of societal malaise with a force of empathy that grips the reader. Serial murder forms the crux of the story perfectly narrated in this novella. How a peaceful town is turned topsy-turvy by the murder of Gboyega the politician, and three students of Model Girls’ Secondary School runs through the work; and then the ingenious investigations of Inspector Kolawole to unravel the mystery surrounding these murders are motifs that run through the work with riveting hold.
Violence remains a recurring quagmire in virtually all human societies, present and past, howbeit seen in various forms. It is one of such forms of violence that Ayoola brings to the fore in ‘Cold Murder’— murder! In the prologue the narrator tells:
“The numerous stains of blood on the wall and the carpet painted a picture of a violent struggle for life. A dagger was in her half-clasped left hand, she was lying on her back, and the night gown she was wearing had been mangled, revealing a good portion of her flabby body.”
Such gruesome details highlight the severity of the crime committed by the murderer. Nonetheless, in the midst of the assassinations and murders in the work, the dogged attitude of Kolawole in trying to unravel these deaths is quite remarkable. This, in the actual sense of the plot, is the center stage in the work, the fulcrum upon which the lever of the story is pivoted.
The author’s background as a Law student is aptly portrayed in his masterful handling of the investigations and facts involved in the subject matter of the novella. He is able to piece together vital elements that constitute crime in fashioning a robust credible situation, seen in the circumstances surrounding Gboyega’s death, and ultimately how evidence, particularly one subject to forensic analysis can be properly utilized in guiding investigation.
Thus, it is against this backdrop that he is able to appreciate the peculiar technicalities of police investigations, especially as it relates to the core tasks of the Criminal Investigation Department where Kolawole operates.
The setting of the novella is Eti-Osa. Maryland and its suburbs are also part of the setting. The author’s nifty exploitation of setting is quite unique in portrayal of his subject matter: that a peaceful community, perhaps not known to having the hustle and bustle of city life, is also not immune from the violent act of murder. In other words, violence of a serial murder context is not a situation peculiar to major cities only. It can as well occur in suburbs, and even in rural areas.
The first death incidence in the novella took place in the house of Gboyega, the deceased. The second death incidence was in the swamp at Eti-Osa while the third was at a dump site.
In terms of time, the events in the novella, it may be safely said span a period of one month (?). The murder of the three students took place within a period of two weeks. The narrator does not however make a categorical reference to the actual time in terms of the particular year but the political events reflected in the work point to a time characteristic of contemporary Nigeria, or perhaps anytime in the new millennium. The political developments in the country after her return to civil rule has brought with it little or no succor from the attendant violence in military eras. It has rather debilitated. Politics has degenerated to the ‘point’ of survival of the fittest. Economic hardship has occasioned its own ugly effects on the citizens. In the ensuing order, societal miscreants, misfits and nonconformists have emerged—it is this category of characters that the likes of Effiong, the security man of Gboyega, Folashade, and the moots planted by Folashade in the Police Force fall into.
The work begins with a prologue where the murder of Gboyega and his wife is disclosed. Gboyega is a political aspirant to the position of the chairmanship of Eti-Osa Local Government Area. Inspector Kolawole and his team are at the scene of crime to collect vital pieces of evidence. The scene of the crime suggests seemingly, a case of domestic violence between Gboyega and his wife. A week later the autopsy report comes out. The ever ingenious Inspector Kolawole while analyzing the report in comparison with the scene of crime which suggests domestic violence, suspects a case of premeditated murder. On his way home later in the day, it appears he is being trailed by a vehicle. However, he reaches home safely. This is the first of threats and dangers that he will have to pass through in course of profiling this case.
Kolawole begins his investigations by calling at a residence in the neighborhood of the late Gboyega. The man, who Kolawole meets, tells him a story which he disbelieves. In the course of investigations he is given an official directive to stop further investigations on the case. Subsequently, he discovers that he is to be redeployed to a new base. He finds this hard to believe. However, this does not happen eventually as it is reversed.
While still on the case, another murder is recorded in the swamps of Eti-Osa. A secondary school girl is killed. As usual, Kolawole and his men come in to comb the area, collecting evidence.
Days later, the serial killer shows up at the Girls’ Model Secondary School. He succeeds in picking up a student of the school who he eventually kills, dumping her body on a dump site. This is the second murder of a student in two week’s time in the community. Kolawole is seriously troubled. Yet to come to grips with the facts of the case, another student of same school is killed and this brings the number to three.
After putting up adverts in the media promising reward for a reliable lead to the killer of Gboyega, a lady responds. Kolawole and his men follow her lead and are able to make a brief headway in the case. Ironically the suspect who they arrest makes confession to a different crime.
Determined to go ahead with the case, Kolawole makes efforts to trace the house of the lady, Folashade, who earlier gave him a lead on the case, when it appears she may not be unconnected with the murder of Gboyega. Unfortunately, when he eventually discovers Folashade’s house, he ends up being held hostage for three days by she and her accomplice. Luckily for him he is able to escape on the third day. Upon recuperating, Kolawole is more than ever determined to nail down Folashade. The novel gets to a climax when he engages in hot pursuit of Folashade who is on the run. His renewed investigations, from clues to clues lead him to discovering the hideout of Folashade and subsequently the killer of Gboyega, one Effiong, whose suspicious behavior intrigued Kolawole.
In the end, Folashade is arrested. She confesses to her role in the murder of Gboyega, and as revenge being her sole reason for her role in his death.
- The work reflects on murder and the motives behind it.
- The callousness of man.
- The complexities of premeditated murder in modern society
- The rewards of dogged determination (a motif. As seen in Kolawole’s pursuits.)
The author did expertly in his choice of characters. However, we shall be concerned with the major characters in the work—
- Katherine (not really a major character in the actual sense).
- The serial killer, Effiong
Kolawole: He is the protagonist. He is an Inspector attached to the Criminal Investigation Department in Eti-Osa. He is a round character.
Kolawole is also an intelligent, smart and successful police officer. He has handled successfully, difficult cases of crime in times past. His intelligence and smartness help him at various stages of the investigations. He is able to use them with his analytical skills in trying to unravel complexities in his investigations. For instance, in page 6, the narrator tells us what Kolawole’s views are about the situation at the crime scene:
“The scene presents the case of a premeditated murder, a domestic violence would ordinarily not degenerate into the use of lethal weapons, the highest should be exchange of physical blows.”
Our protagonist is also a determined and goal-oriented character. He remains unflinching in his strides until he is able to achieve a task. It is this feature that propels virtually all his moves in a bid to track the killers of Gboyega. One of such moves he makes was when he traced Folashade’s house. Even when he was kept hostage for three days without food; when he was fully recuperated he was still willing to track Folashade and the killers of Gboyega. For some persons this would have signaled the need to withdraw from the case. However, he was relentless and determined as ever before.
Kolawole was also a caring and loving husband to Katherine, his wife. Even while at his duty post, he thought about how her. Also, he was unwilling to compromise his fidelity to his wife when Folashade made seductive moves at him even to the point of trying to directly persuade him. One of his flaws, nonetheless, in this regard is his over commitment to his official assignments sometimes at the expense of the safety of himself and his family.
In summary, Kolawole is an intelligent officer determined to achieve his goals. He is an embodiment of integrity and honesty in a Police Force where corruption, threats and compromise thrives.
Folashade: A witty and clever lady ready to do anything irrespective of the consequences in order to achieve her goals. Her ability to abduct Kolawole; her ability to be on the run from the police for such a long time shows her wittiness.
It was Folashade whose criminal intentions orchestrated the whole events in the work. We get to discover this at the end of the work (p.123). She engineered Gboyega’s death through her accomplices. When the police put an advert on the murderers of Gboyega she subtly shows up at Kolawole’s office feigning knowledge of the killers of her own husband thereby covering her very own involvement in the ploy that brought Gboyega down.
Katherine: She is the wife of the protagonist, Kolawole. Also referred to as ‘Kate’ by the narrator in the work—Katherine is a loving and devoted wife to Kolawole.
A conspicuous feature she also has is her sensitive and emotional nature. In Chapter 13 she dreamt about Kolawole “being beaten by tall, huge men with thick rods” – (p.82). When she woke up, “Tears flooded her eyes, and before she got back to the house, they were already flowing down her face” – (p.82). Thus, upon waking up from a nightmare and being unable to find Kolawole she begins to shed tears. This is part of her emotional nature.
Kate, just like Kolawole also faced the temptation of sexual advances from the opposite sex. And just like Kolawole she stood her ground.
Effiong: He is the mastermind of the deaths in the work. He, it was, who killed Gboyega and his wife. He also killed the three school girls whom he suspected may have seen the pictures of late Gboyega and his wife, in his computer.
Throughout the work the narrator does not refer to him as ‘Effiong. ‘It was at the end of the work we discover his complete identity.
Effiong’s personality buttresses part of the stark ironies of the human nature: doing a thing that one feels guilty of doing. Despite the fact that Effiong killed the three students and also killed Gboyega and wife, it is apparent he still has a working conscience. In page 40, the narrator tells, “And like he did after killing the first and second girl, he started feeling sorry, but he knew he was still going to do it soon.” This is part of the ambivalence of the human mind, the ironies crowning some of our behavior. Although the killer felt sorry, which shows remorse and regret, yet he was certain that he would still have to kill more persons in a bid to cover his tracks.
The author wrote using a third person point of view.
Part of his style that stands out in the work is the use of suspense. In page 17, at the end of the scene, the narrator leaves us in suspense with these words: “So resolved, he strode towards his apartment only to get another shocker.” And he ends that scene. The reader is left wondering and anticipating the next thing in the chain of events. Suspense is also used in page 62 at the end of the scene,
“Then he stumbled on a file that wasn’t familiar, he clicked out of curiosity and he could not believe the pictures he saw, he was shocked to his marrows.”
The passage ends there. The next scene we see is a different one. Thus, anticipation is heightened.
The author’s syntax is a commendable aspect of his style. His use of description strikes like that of literary virtuoso’s. Apart from the prose nature (not to say ‘prosaic’ – which means another thing) of his work, some of his sentences are poetic in nature, beautifully rendered masterfully, leaving a fresh and lasting impression in the mind of the reader. For instance, at the very beginning of the work, the reader’s attention is drawn to the opening lines poetically rendered,
“The room was pitch-dark; only a dim ray of light came from a sole window that was partly covered by a curtain that was up-market… huge dressing mirror stood opposite a gigantic wooden master-bed that was made from the finest mahoganies…” (p.1)
Ayoola’s masterful power of description is remarkable and striking. It is akin to a dazzling pianist who holds his audience spellbound; a D.H. Lawrence whose dexterous use of the English Language in his works is inventive; an African drummer who strikes his talking drum expertly to the admiration of festive faces in the moonlight celebration… The vividness of his descriptive prowess in the opening lines of Chapter 4 is quite revealing in this regard:
“The swampy side of Eti-Osa was unusually a source of attention. There were cops everywhere, the atmosphere was tense and there was acrid smell of death in the air. A teenage girl lay still in the swamp, her naked body partly submerged, her head was badly bludgeoned and the force used had almost sent her skull ripping apart. What remained of her head was a blood-soaked and heavily disfigured stump. Stale blood thickened under her left breast as a piece of flesh under it had been bitten off…” (p.27)
Metaphors like “acrid smell of death in the air,” and “what remained of her head was a blood-soaked and heavily disfigured stump,” gleaned from the passage above are so image-laden and vivid. Worthy of note is the apparent onomatopoeic effect in “…her head was badly bludgeoned”—the very sound is suggestive of the meaning with dramatic nuances.
Ayoola’s COLD MURDER is an artistic commentary on societal ills. The medium for actualizing this, of course, is the medium of fiction. The work shows human propensities in its various forms and what people are willing to do in a state of desperation. Human frailties feature at various times in the work, deciphered from the traits of the characters in the work. Thus, Folashade’s cunningness is part of this. Worthy of note in this regard is the level of rot and corruption even in the police force. The moots in the police force used by Folashade are part of this rot.
The author’s maiden work of fiction, COLD MURDER is an unforgettable work that will remain in the mind of the reader. Ayoola through this work has made his entry into the shelves where the works of Achebe, Adichie, Laye etc are kept. The work is a masterpiece deserving of more reviews and literary appreciations by literary commentators and critics the world over. I have done my little bit through this review. I leave the rest to more competent literary critics than me. COLD MURDER is a fascinating page-turner, any day and any time.