LAST SEEN IN LAPAZ, the new Emma Djan Investigation, available wherever books are sold
LAST SEEN IN LAPAZ hit shelves on Feb 7, 2023. Originally, it was slated for June 2022 pub date, but another year of Covid severely delayed my trip to West Africa for research.
In LAST SEEN IN LAPAZ, Ngozi, the daughter of the Nigerian ambassador Ojukwu, runs awaywith her formerly imprisoned convict boyfriend, Femi. After someone spots her in a large suburb of Accra called Lapaz, Ojukwu appeals to Emma Djan and her colleagues at the Sowah PI Agency to find her. Femi’s subsequent and surprising murder raises a crucial question: what’s the connection, if any, between Ngozi’s disappearance and Femi’s death? As Emma investigates, she discovers a network of sex and human trafficking throughout West Africa.
Research for LAST SEEN IN LAPAZ was wide-ranging and involved some challenges. The novel takes place in these five different countries, in West Africa, involving Nigeria, Niger, Libya, and Ghana, making the plot and sub-plots somewhat complex. For the first time, Emma will travel outside of Ghana to Nigeria, a brand new experience for her (including flying, of which she’s terrified). She will visit Benin City, an ancient city with history that goes back centuries and which is known for brass and bronze sculptures.
Rather than boring you with long descriptions, here are a few annotated, highlight photos for your viewing pleasure, some of them germane to LAST SEEN IN LAPAZ.
How do you fit three adults on one motorbike? Be African.
In Africa, all things are possible
But like many cities that are impressive on the service (e.g. Florence, Italy), Benin City has a hidden, dark side. It's arguably Nigeria's ground zero for human and sex trafficking. As Emma investigates, she comes face to face with the brutality of sex work and sex trafficking, both locally and internationally. This is a tough case. Now, on to Niger. Emma did not go to this country in LAST SEEN IN LAPAZ, but it has prominent scenes in the novel. The French government and the US Department of State state that one should not visit Niger unless absolutely necessary because of armed robberies, sectarian fighting, kidnappings, etc. This is an unfair, internet boilerplate, and broad-brush characterization of Niger that even I fell for before making the trip. Although there are skirmishes with extremists on the borders with Mali and Nigeria, it’s not as if the entire country is engulfed in war. There’s no one on the street with guns, so in that sense, it’s safer than in the US where I could get shot anywhere at all. It’s hypocritical for western countries to lecture developing countries.
Ghana was more familiar territory for me in LAST SCENE IN LAPAZ. Here I have two PI friends who guide me to the places featured in the novel. For example, the infamous Alligator “rest-house,” really a brothel.