The best African set political thrillers

Who am I?

Looking for an adventure in the mid-90s I found myself in East Africa helping wind up a failed African bank, locked out of a t-shirt manufacturing plant, chasing down missing bulldozers (which turned up creating Rwandan refugee camps), taking over a toilet paper manufacturer which couldn’t manage to perforate the paper, and running a match factory on the slopes of Kilimanjaro before selling it to a Nigerian chief who turned up in his private jet. Meanwhile feeling like an alien who really didn’t understand what was really going on around me, and uncomfortable with much of the hard-drinking and arrogant expat culture, drove me to start to write as a way of making sense of what I was seeing and feeling.    

I wrote...

The Liquidator

By Iain Parke,

Book cover of The Liquidator

What is my book about?

Paul is a ‘blow in’, a fish out of water expat coming to the end of his contract dealing with bust African businesses when a last case comes in. It’s one that takes him back upcountry and leads him into a personal and political quagmire of corruption. As an outsider, Paul thinks he’s safe, even from the all-pervasive secret police. But when he finds himself holding a deadly secret as the country around him begins to implode, how safe is he? And what will he be prepared to do to protect those around him?     

The books I picked & why

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White Mischief

By James Fox,

Book cover of White Mischief

Why this book?

As an exposé of the upper-class Happy Valley set in the late 30s/early 40s white Kenya this sets the tone for subsequent settler behaviour. An investigation into a real-life unsolved mystery, the murder of Josslyn Hay, 22nd Earl of Erroll, it features an outlandish cast of characters and lifestyles of astonishing decadence and privilege and reads like a thriller.

The Constant Gardener

By John Le Carré,

Book cover of The Constant Gardener

Why this book?

Le Carré’s triumphant skewering of modern capitalist exploitation of Africa. Bringing his genius in exploring betrayal and the politics of what people choose to do and see or not see to get by every day to an exploration of modern exploitation. A passionately angry page-turner with a complex plot and deep humanity.

Fishing in Africa: A Guide to War and Corruption

By Andrew Buckoke,

Book cover of Fishing in Africa: A Guide to War and Corruption

Why this book?

A revealing portrait of 80s/90s Africa from a journalist who had covered many of the continent’s trouble spots for major British newspapers. Through his journeys you get to meet a wide range of players from fighters in the bush to aid executives and politicians in executive suites. A fascinating mix of travel writing and political analysis (and yes with some fishing thrown in). 

Brazzaville Beach

By William Boyd,

Book cover of Brazzaville Beach

Why this book?

An engaging, funny, and poignant read. Its central character engaged in her study of chimpanzees reminded me of some of the PhD students I came across while in Africa. It captures the feel of expat life, separated from local culture, estranged from back home, and feeling like flotsam that the continent will soon shrug off.

Rumours of Rain

By Andre Brink,

Book cover of Rumours of Rain

Why this book?

A true South African classic. Told from an Afrikaner point of view which is an unusual experience for me as someone with modern liberal sensibilities, this is a grown-up psychological and political thriller about loyalties, conflict, and betrayals set against the shadow of the Angola conflict and the beginning of the end of apartheid.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Africa, Kenya, and the apartheid?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Africa, Kenya, and the apartheid.

Africa Explore 156 books about Africa
Kenya Explore 38 books about Kenya
The Apartheid Explore 32 books about the apartheid

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Bitter Money, Out of Africa, and It's Our Turn to Eat if you like this list.