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Formats
Paperback Book Details
  • 12/2021
  • 9781952782350
  • 272 pages
  • $16.95
Daniel Meier
Author
Blood Before Dawn, Book 2 of the Dung Beetles of Liberia Series
April 1979: Ken Verrier and his wife, Sam return to Liberia to buy diamonds. They did not return to get caught up in a rice riot and a coup d’état. But that’s what happens. Ken witnesses and unwittingly participates in a period of Liberia’s tumultuous yet poorly documented history—the overthrow of the Tolbert presidency and ultimately the end of the Americo-Liberian one hundred thirty-three years of political and social dominance. Details of President Tolbert’s assassination are sketchy to this day, but through Ken’s association with his Americo friends from the past, the CIA agents he meets, and the Liberian military he is forced to deal with, a believable scenario emerges. While describing the once beautiful country and a kind and generous people, Meier intertwines terrifying tales of the atrocities committed that account for the future pain of an entire nation.
Reviews
This assured follow up to The Dung Beetles of Liberia, Meier’s striking debut, again plunges readers into a West African nation of great wealth, inequality, corruption—and, for protagonist Ken Verrier, opportunity. At least that’s how it seems at first as Ken, with his wife Sam, returns to Liberia’s capital of Monrovia in 1979, eager to score a quick profit in the diamond business, to find riots and revolution in the streets as the nation teeters on the brink. As President Tobert confiscates the Liberian Army’s ammunition, after soldiers refused to fire on furious citizens, Ken, a pilot, goes about securing an airplane for his diamond hunt, at every step encountering signs of Liberia’s instability and foreign nationals (Russians, Chinese, CIA) jockeying to shape its future.

Thanks to Meier’s vivid scene craft and the prevailing sense of tension, even readers not aware of the tragedies of Liberia at the dawn of the 1980s will feel the inevitable coming: an assassination, military rule, and Ken and Sam caught up in it all. Unlike many thriller authors, though, Meier doesn’t treat his setting like a mere romantic backdrop. Instead, for all the scrapes and suspense, and the excitement of rainy season plane trips and Ken;s unexpected surveillance work for the Liberian Army, the book’s beating heart is its evocation of a nation in crisis and the way that, in games of power, it’s the citizenry who suffer the most. “Life is hard and life is cheap,” Ken thinks, after watching the offhand execution of a mine worker. “It doesn’t pay to break the rules.”

Ken’s mistake, of course, is believing he’s mastered those rules and that he could engineer a big score without being compromised by the brutality. Verrier alternates between Ken’s first-person narration and third-person chapters detailing the coup and the burning of Monrovia, threads that readers will dread eventually tying together. Swift, engaging, and tragic, Blood Before Dawn is an uncommonly thoughtful and humane thriller.

Takeaway: Thriller fans who demand realism and humanity will find much to love in this novel of revolutionary Liberia.

Great for fans of: Leye Adenle’s Easy Motion Tourist, Mukuka Chipanta’s Five Nights Before the Summit.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: B
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-

Formats
Paperback Book Details
  • 12/2021
  • 9781952782350
  • 272 pages
  • $16.95

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