Five Nights Before the Summit

Review by Dakarai Bonyongwe


Mukuka Chipanta is a Zambian-born author and aerospace engineer currently living in Connecticut. His first novel A Casualty of Power is an award-winning masterpiece which, true to its title, evocatively depicts the pandemonium that an abuse of power can have on the lives of ordinary citizens. His new book Five Night’s before the Summit offers the same impact, delving into the question of justice and whether people ever get what they deserve.

“There is no honour among thieves.”


Chipanta’s new book exemplifies this saying perfectly. Just when you think you understand what is going to happen, the characters’ motives and decisions take you by surprise making the read all the more stimulating. The story follows the flawed but upright Detective Maxwell in the investigation of a robbery gone wrong, which threatens to derail the Queen of England’s visit to the newly independent Zambia. Time is of the essence,  as Detective Maxwell and his team are ordered to solve the murder before the Summit as the reputation of the Zambian government and its police force is at stake. Failure is not an option even if this could mean the conscientious detective sacrificing his marriage for the sake of the nation. 


How can a robbery have political ramifications?  It does when it results in the deaths of two British nationals, Mr and Mrs Hinckley, with hero status after they had lent their support to Zambian independence. If the Hinckley’s weren’t loved, they were at least respected by the Zambian public and their brutal murder inevitably makes national news. It could never be a crime that is swept under the rug and everyone, including the murderers, know it.


Amos had always been a wildcard, but his cohorts couldn’t have been prepared for the gamechanger he threw them. Murder was never part of the plan, at least as far as the naïve and overly trusting Paul Mutamina was concerned when he asked for Amos’ help. While survival drove Paul and his men into the Hinckley’s farmhouse, Amos’ agenda is entirely different. He’s thinking of rewards far above what petty theft could give him, and he doesn’t intend to share the spoils. After all, he’s not working alone; he has a powerful supporter on his side that even the police don’t stand a chance against. Who can touch him?


Having recently read and much enjoyed A Casualty of Power, I had high expectations for Mukuka Chipanta’s new novel and I can truthfully say my expectations were met. Novels should be enjoyable, but truly successful fiction should critically engage you into thinking about larger society, as Mukuka does in Five Nights before the Summit. You observe situations unravel, depict motives tinged with greed; desperation is met with an unforgiving reality, and morality is overcome by ‘political correctness’. Despite being fictional, the novel captures the image of how modern  civilization works by blatantly pointing out the bleak reality that justice is only as good as those who enforce it. Inevitably, this is a sobering conclusion to reach, but arguably the most concise and appropriate answer which could have been given. 


I highly recommend finding a copy of this remarkable book. It’s thought provoking in its questioning the concept of justice and is highly engaging. I read it in one sitting.