I met the ever so lovely Leye Adenle at the first First Monday Crime a couple of weeks ago, and was enthralled by the way he spoke about Lagos – a city which is exciting, dangerous, fun and full of energy all at once. I was also very intrigued by his main character Amaka, who he described as being like most of the women he knows and I’m a sucker for a strong female character. So I purchased a copy and enthusiastically dived headfirst into a thrilling story of murder, corruption and vice.
Easy Motion Tourist is narrated by Guy Collins, a journalist from London sent to Lagos ostensibly to cover the general election. Deciding to get into the swing of things, he ill-advisedly (and sheepishly, to his credit) visits a pick-up bar, when a mutilated woman’s body is discovered outside, sending the joint into a panic. Hoping for a story, Guy foolishly dashes outside – and is immediately arrested along with everyone else in the vicinity. Enter his saviour Amaka, a charity worker, who on hearing that a journalist has been taken into custody, sweet-talks the police station chief into letting Guy out. She works directly with sex workers, keeping a database of men who use prostitutes, and advising women whether or not they’re safe to go with. But more of her girls are disappearing – apparently for use in black magic rituals – and believing Guy to be a BBC journalist, she wants him to expose this. But though Amaka has her own ways of dealing with high-powered men who abuse women, she is about to find herself in more danger than she’s ever been in before.
Where to begin with Easy Motion Tourist? First off, the writing fizzes with the atmosphere of Lagos, skilfully juxtaposing the staggering poverty that leaves Nigerians with few choices in life other than crime and prostitution, with the unbelievable wealth of the upper echelons of society. This is a world in which richer families bring suitcases of money to parties to throw in the air as a display of wealth; where in a community meeting, residents make it quite clear that they have no interest in police investigating the murder of a young woman, but simply want security increased; where the police are in the pockets of the wealthy, but the poor are arrested simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Leye Adenle also captures character incredibly well – writing as convincingly about merciless gangsters as about Amaka herself, one of the best female characters written by a man I’ve ever read. When Amaka wasn’t there, I missed her – she’s endlessly compelling to read about, and characters like her make me feel like there is still hope for the world. Guy is a terrific character to witness the events through. Both excited by and wary of Lagos, he is initially motivated by a search for a story, personal glory, and an infatuation with the entrancing Amaka but finally convinced by her passion, and a heartbreaking meeting with a former sex worker.
Pleasingly, the sex-workers are written about with respect and without judgement. They’re not simply portrayed as victims, but as women with agency, personalities, lives and ambitions, having to make the best of the hand life has dealt them.
Easy Motion Tourist is thought-provoking, clever and informative without ever being preachy, but it’s also pacey, hugely funny, and a very satisfying page-turner. I shan’t spoil the end, but it certainly left me in hope that this isn’t the last we’ll see of Amaka…
Easy Motion Tourist by Leye Adenle is published by Cassava Republic Press.