Updated: Feb 14
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 LSIL, Ngozi, the daughter of the Nigerian ambassador Ojukwu, elopes with her ex-convict boyfriend, Femi. After someone spots her in a large suburb of Accra called Lapaz, Ojukwu appeals to Emma 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?
Research for LSIL was very wide-ranging and involved some challenges. The novel takes place in these four 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.
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, but it has prominent scenes in the novel. The French government and the US Department of State state that one should not visit Niger except if absolutely necessary because of armed robberies, sectarian fighting, etc. This is an unfair and broad-brush characterization of Niger. 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. It would be far more correct to say that in the US people shoot each other every day than it would be for Niger. There’s no one on the street with guns! People are kind and hospitable.
Ghana was more familiar territory. 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