Review: ‘Wahala’ is a solid, slow-burn, page-turning mystery
NEW YORK (AP) — “Wahala” by Nikki May (William Morrow/Custom House)
The African word “wahala,” used commonly in Nigeria, means trouble and that’s just what happens when three Anglo-Nigerian best friends in their 30s add a fourth woman to the mix.
Boo, Simi and Ronke are longtime friends living in London. Boo is married with a young daughter, frustrated with the responsibility of being a mother, easily annoyed by her doting, cheerful husband, and then guilt-ridden for those feelings. Simi has a long distance marriage because her husband lives in New York. He’s keen to have a baby sooner over later and Simi doesn’t feel ready. And then there’s the loveable, generous Ronke. She’ll drop everything at a hat to support her friends.
Ronke has a boyfriend, Kayode, who seems to return Ronke’s affection — but he also tends to disappoint her a lot, or leave her guessing. She puts on a front that she’s completely comfortable in the relationship and excited by their future, but her friends are skeptical about whether it will last.
The book opens with the girls meeting for a lunch (minus Boo, who is watching her daughter — and she’s bitter about it) and Simi has brought her old childhood friend, Isobel. She’s wealthy, well-connected, confident and inserts herself into their friend group whether they like it or not.
This isn’t a trope of women as catty or unwelcoming to a newcomer — Isobel just seems to zero-in on each woman’s insecurities and make them a little bit worse. Throughout the book she chips away at these women’s lives before they realize what’s happening. It’s a slow burn, to learn Isobel’s true motives, but worth the read to find out. Wahala, indeed.