Femi Kayode’s Debut, Lightseekers, Is a Murder Mystery on a Nigerian Campus

The book, which won the Little, Brown/UEA Crime Fiction Award in 2019, is the first in an investigative series focused on Dr Philip K. Taiwo.
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Femi Kayode's Lightseekers. From @holly_watt on Twitter.

Femi Kayode's Lightseekers. From @holly_watt on Twitter.

Three young students in a Nigerian university town are killed. Their murder is captured on social media. It goes to trial. An investigative psychologist, Dr Philip K. Taiwo, steps in. But on visiting the town, Dr. Taiwo finds that things are not how they look. Femi Kayode’s debut novel Lightseekers tells the story of “the Okiri Three” and what really happened. It is the beginning of a series on the investigations of Dr Taiwo. It won the Little, Brown/UEA Crime Fiction Award in 2019.

Publishers Weekly describes the book as “an intriguing if uneven crime novel set in contemporary Nigeria.”

“Femi Kayode gives us a noir-ish crime thriller,” Storgy Magazine notes, “with . . . drug dealers; student fraternities turned into dangerous cults; international mercenaries and assassins; corrupt institutions from local police to the military; conspiracy theories and toxic social media . . . and the long shadow of Nigeria’s violent post-colonial history,” wherein “nobody is what they first appear.”

Femi Kayode by UEA Live.
Femi Kayode. Credit: UEA Live.

Femi Kayode grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, and writes for the stage and screen. He studied Clinical Psychology at the University of Ibadan before starting a career in advertising. He was a Packard Fellow in Film and Media at the University of Southern California and a Gates-Packard Fellow in International Health at the University of Washington, Seattle. In 2017, he received the UEA Literary Festival Scholarship, which helped to fund his MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia (UEA). He submitted Lightseekers as his thesis. He is represented by Harry Illingworth at D H H ​​Literary Agency. He lives in Namibia with his family.

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“What excited me the most about writing Lightseekers was the fact that this was mine,” Kayode said in an interview with UEA Live. “My baby. My ideas. My story. Film and TV (and indeed, advertising) are extremely collaborative processes, and with several creative egos clashing, the end product can be extremely different from how the creator or writer envisioned it.”

He continued: “With writing a novel, I felt a huge sense of liberation. And with every validation from my classmates and tutor, I felt more empowered. It was a heady feeling, this sense of independence and power over my creative journey.”

The Times UK listed Lightseekers as among the best crime fiction of February 2021. The novel has further appeared on “anticipated” lists from The Independent, inews, The Millions, and Metro.

“In book 2, Philip Taiwo is going to be investigating why the wife of the pastor of a megachurch in Nigeria suddenly disappeared,” Kayode told UEA Live, “and there are suspicions of foul play with all fingers pointing to the husband. It starts out as a domestic noir but quickly evolves into much larger themes of religion, patriarchy, and the interrelationships of church, finance and politics.”

Lightseekers is out in the UK today, February 4, from Raven Books/Bloomsbury UK, and in the US in March, from Mulholland/ Little, Brown and Company USA. Click on the links to buy the novel.

Uzoma Ihejirika
Uzoma Ihejirika is a staff writer at Open Country Mag. He is a staff writer at Folio Nigeria. He is an editor for the AfroAnthology Series and a copy editor for Minority Africa. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming on Lolwe, Music in Africa, Bakwa Magazine, and can also be found on Medium.
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