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(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Peter Dickinson is a British mystery writer whose literate, sardonic, intricately plotted novels are a cut above most works in the genre. In TEFUGA, there are none of the trappings of the conventional mystery, though there is a crucial enigma that is resolved only at the book’s conclusion.

The action begins in the 1980’s. Well-known British television personality Nigel Jackland has come to Nigeria to make a docu-drama based on his parents’ experience there in the 1920’s; the project was inspired by his discovery of a diary kept by his mother, Betty. This provides the premise for the book’s unusual structure: Chapters recounting the filming in present-day Nigeria alternate with longer chapters consisting of passages from the diary.

Betty Jackland is the heart of the novel. A naive, inexperienced young woman, she nevertheless comes to Africa with an artist’s eye (she is a gifted painter) and an independent spirit. Her...

(The entire section is 303 words.)