Title: Many Shockers for Miss Lucas
Author: Ola Adepegba
Genres: Short fiction, thriller
Publisher: Okadabooks (www.okadabooks.com)
Reviewer: Ehichoya Ekozilen
If you enjoyed the James Hadley Chase novels, you will like Ola Adepegba’s Many Shockers for Miss Lucas. If you don’t know who Chase is, it’s okay to read on, but a good idea would be to check Google. Adepegba has Chase’s imagination, even if not the latter’s storytelling ability. His characters are intense, even if not well developed.
This long short story is written in the classical thriller tradition that employs suspense, tension, grit, fast pace and ruthlessness to drive the plot. I thoroughly enjoyed the page turner with its twists and turns and will recommend it to anyone looking for a good read for relaxation. The story is written in the third person omniscient point of view so all the characters are followed in real time as they engage in a deadly play over “the VP’s money”.
Many Shockers for Miss Lucas is a new release of an earlier edition titled Sandra Lucas. It is the story of Sandra Lucas, a 25 year old lady who is on the search for a corporate job. Lucas has curves and isn’t one to cover them up so men ogle her wherever she turns up. However, Benson May was no idle ogler. When he waited for Lucas at her front door that morning and stared as she approached, he also had something for her. That something was a parcel which turned out to contain the ransom money of £550,000 paid to secure the release of the vice president’s daughter from her kidnappers.
From the moment Lucas finds the money, her life takes a sudden coruscating twist, and intrigues, blackmail and murder become routine.
Sandra thought deeply. Most of the members of the kidnapping mob had been killed by the police but their leader was still at large with the money. He must certainly be the one that put the money in the boxes and mailed it to one Sandra Luicers who knew best what to do with it.
She stared at the money again. Ten million rand in foreign currency mistakenly delivered to her. Should she report to the police? Should she return it to the courier agency that delivered it to her or should she run away with it? She was thinking about what to do when she heard a loud knock at her door.
Apart from Lucas, those who want the money include Jim Jackson, a retired bandit “with a natural flair for killing”; Harry Whyte, a printing press hand, who’s always on the lookout for opportunities to make big money and build a house and go to Harvard or Manchester for a professional course; and James Sydney, a gunslinger with the quickness of a snake. And the government in Pretoria, ably represented by the South African Police Service.
While I liked Many Shockers for Miss Lucas, I found the storytelling a bit disappointing. Maybe the story was advisedly kept short so it could suit a certain audience but what we end up with is a story that is so fast-paced that details, even essential ones, are left out. The descriptions of the characters are inchoate and backgrounds are missing where we could have used them.
There are improbable scenarios. An example is the scene where a character jumps out of a hotel room with a dozen police officers, eleven of them “with guns in their hands”, between him and the door, runs to his car, starts it and drives off.
I also think writers of fiction should be careful how they express blatant political views, especially those that are borderline racist. Here, Sydney speaks in his mind but it is the author’s voice that bongs through.
Sydney thought about all the evils the Asians were committing in the country, the Chinese, the Pakistanis, the Koreans, the Japanese, even the Indians, from selling fake products, to harbouring weapons and criminals, to drugs, yet the South Africans believed other Africans, north of Limpopo, were their problem and had accepted the Asians open handed.
It would have worked better if, perhaps, Sydney had expressed this view to someone who countered it. It is a huge irony that the statement is made by Sydney, a criminal who is an African from the north of Limpopo.
There are out of character scenes. An example is the place where a 25 year old lady carrying bales of money whose safety is uppermost in her mind is casually offered some juice by a total stranger who’s obviously no Catholic priest, as he’s carrying a gun. She is not depicted in the story as careless or unexposed – she went for a bank interview and passed well which suggests she is educated and smart – yet she accepts and promptly gulps the juice all down. These are some of the problems.
Although most of it is editorially above average by the standard of what one often sees around here, the editorial issues, ranging from punctuation to misuse of pronoun, are there. In the prologue, we have this.
But when they got to East Lane and Dickson asked him to pay, he realized he was dead. After examinations, the doctors said he had died since the previous night, meaning he had died even before he walked into Dickson’s taxi.
There is a fair amount of poorly constructed sentences like these.
After his tenure, the association couldn’t protect him anymore and he must face the consequences of his hard life. He therefore ran to Durban in KwaZulu Natal. When he realized that he wasn’t save in KZN he ran to Western Cape.
And here we have Sydney’s two statements, “I am a pro” and “I have a gun” placed in two paragraphs when they ought to be together:
“Are you a ghost?” she said to Sydney who was standing beside her.”
“That you could move that fast. I thought I left you in the car”
Sydney smiled. “I am a pro.”
“I have a gun.” he added
There are mix-up of words. For example, coaster is written when coastal is meant and split when spit is meant. The dialogue is generally okay but problematic in a few places.
The choice of names also doesn’t work for me, as it does not accurately reflect the society where the story is set but significant progress was made in the second edition. Maybe giving all the major characters European names is meant to appeal to Western readers. Now, that is hardly a clever way to approach the matter of appealing to Western readers.
Despite its flaws, Many Shockers for Miss Lucas is a good read and you won’t find a dull moment. Adepegba certainly has good imagination going for him, sufficient to become a great writer, if he works at it.