New detective novel a ‘mixed bag’

Title: Secret Agent
Author: Nyasha Zimunya
ISBN: 978-0-7974-9516-6

The appeal of traditional Shona writing has been on the decline and authors have tried to give it a new lease of life by incorporating modernity reflected by the hybrid Shona incorporating slang, colloquial speech and modernised forms of dialect.

Between the Lines: Beniah Munengwa

Ignatius Mabasa has been delivering to the world such urbanised folklore. The outcome has, however, always remained a mixed bag for the conflict of the preservation of traditional forms of writing always pops up.

Within this sub-genre, fits Secret Agent, a local action-packed novel that uses a colloquial dialect of slang, Shona and English and has found a huge uptake among young readers.

After a range of alarming cases of drug dealing, drug abuse, murder and corruption at a high school, Francis Fendago sends Peter and three other agents to get to the bottom of the problems.

The team members then disguise themselves as students and get enrolled at the school but their presence does little to redeem the school.

The ending of the book is rather lukewarm as the major enemy that thrives in a system of gangs and sacrifices remains unshaken. Maybe the author’s case was to depict how depraved the enforcement system can be when dealing with organised crime.

This forms the basis of the story that Nyasha Zimunya explores with a passion. However, when reading, one gets a feeling that the story was clearer in the author’s mind than on paper as the delivery left a lot to be desired.

While Zimunya can be applauded for being brave in penning a book that suits well to a young and urban audience, his exploits fall short of the legacy left by outstanding writers who wrote Shona action-packed novels which have left an indelible mark on the legacy of Zimbabwean literature in Shona.

Zimunya’s piece is marred with grammatical and typographic errors, which implies there was no due diligence done on the part of the author and his editing team. In his next endeavours, an investment of more time in revision and editing may be a bit more rewarding.


But, some richly described action scenes make the book an interesting read in spite of its flaws. High octane car chases and fully fledged combat fights make a large percentage of what makes the book fascinating.

To his credit, Zimunya also opens the door to secret service as a possible career pathway for young people and the need for the development of self-defence skills in this ugly world.

It is also a light read, one that can be read in less than three sittings as is typical of popular culture products.

But in trying to be visual and elaborate, the author desperately pursued more than one character, giving all of them some space and voice, and consequently congesting the plot and making it too dense to allow for exciting twists and turns.

Secret Agent is a book that tries to bridge the gap between social media writing and formal publishing and its set of accompanying flaws are as a result of the absence of a high standing and functional bridge between the two.

Explicit scenes also feature. The appropriateness of that in Shona literature is, however, for the reader to judge. But in a greater way, they ring an alarm bell towards the realisation of the plight of young girls’ vulnerability to sexual abuse, and also that of men whose power attracts young girls who envy it.

The world hence remains a wild place, where purity is a rarity and that is what is projected in the narrative of Zimunya’s text. All the same, the literary offering stands out as a book that explores the rotten world, where greed, power and such other social ills are all-pervading. As the author demonstrates, these must in some way be stopped by individuals who sacrifice their all to make the world a better place.

However, standing alone, they rarely do succeed. It is for the rest of us to develop a mindset that halts rot and also inspires the world around us to be a more hospitable and accommodating place, both for the weak and the strong.

 Beniah Munengwa writes in his own capacity. He can be contacted on benmunengwa@gmail.com

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