[Fiction Issue] ‘That boy is a snake, I’m telling you … A green snake in green grass’—Read an excerpt from Leye Adenle’s new novel Unfinished Business

The JRB presents an excerpt from Unfinished Business, the new Amaka thriller by Leye Adenle.

Unfinished Business
Leye Adenle
Cassava Republic Press, 2022

Mummy, as everyone called the 62-year-old wife of the General Overseer of the All-Believers Church of God or the ABC of G, was in her gold and black ornamental chair, next to her husband’s larger and empty one. Her grey, natural hair peeped out of the back of her blue Ankara headgear, the same material as her inexpensive iro and buba. Her dark, never-smiling face was devoid of makeup, and apart from her wedding band and a diamond engagement ring her children had bought as a gift to stand in for the one their father never bought her, she had no jewellery on. Sitting in the carved, gilded chair in the large parlour of their eight-bedroom mansion in Banana Island, she was the least dressed-up person in her own home.

‘Where is he?’ she asked her personal assistant, a young woman who was standing next to her.

The assistant punched into her mobile phone, cupped her hand around the mouthpiece and asked, ‘Where is Daddy G.O.?’ She nodded, shook her head, then began to compose a message as Mummy watched her.

All around, guests spoke in whispers. They were church members, family members, pastors and overseers of other churches, celebrities including a famous gospel musician and her husband, and a born-again actor turned pastor. Standing by the walls away from the guests were two police officers armed with AK-47 rifles and servants in white uniforms with gold trimmings.

There was a camera crew of two next to the large front entrance. Their video camera and a mic boom were directed at the door. Another camera moved among the crowd, capturing faces that beamed obligatory smiles into the lens as it paused on them.

Among the crowd was a group of Chinese nationals in white buba and sokoto, all of them holding their well-thumbed copies of the Holy Bible. Away from the crowd, at the far end of the massive room, a group of tanned white men were gathered around a sofa set against the wall. They all wore dark suits and dark glasses, except for the only member of the group who was sitting alone in the middle of the sofa. His suit was white, as was his shirt which had the top two buttons undone exposing a diamond-encrusted gold crucifix partially buried in the black curly hair that grew thick from his chest. His legs, stretched out on the Persian rug and crossed at the foot, showed off most of his grey snakeskin Sancho boots. His arms were spread over the top of the sofa, showcasing his jewelled rings. His greasy black hair was pulled back tightly from his face. He also wore a pair of dark glasses—the gold frame sparkling with diamonds.

A table had been placed at the centre of the parlour. It was cramped with birthday cards and all sizes and colours of cakes, each bearing good wishes and prayers for Daddy as he turned 69. Some of the cakes bore his image: the ever smiling, cleanshaven, bald-headed birthday boy. Wrapped gifts were piled on the ground around the table.

The assistant’s phone beeped. Her face broke into a smile as she read the message. She looked up at Mummy and declared: ‘They’re at the gate.’

‘It’s time,’ Mummy said. The cameraman that had been moving through the crowd stopped and focused his camera on the door. The servants bearing trays of drinks and food lay down their burdens and stood still, focusing on the door. The guests rose to their feet and, after a murmur silenced by a wave of Mummy’s hand, the hum of the two industrial-strength air conditioner units carried the anticipation in the room.

‘Where is the devil’s advocate?’ Mummy asked, looking around as she walked towards the door. ‘Has anybody seen him?’

The assistant leaned close to Mummy. ‘I called his driver. He said he’s on his way.’

‘What of Frank? Has he returned from Ibadan?’

‘I don’t know, ma. His phone is still off.’

‘And you are sure he said he took the church jet to Ibadan?’

‘Yes, ma. To his uncle’s burial.’

‘But when you asked the pilot when they are returning, they said they were not in Ibadan?’

‘Not exactly, ma. They just … He didn’t seem to know what I was talking about.’ Her right hand twisted and turned by her ear as she spoke.

‘You said they said he was not in Ibadan.’

‘Yes, ma. I mean, no, ma. He didn’t exactly say so. He asked me who flew the plane to Ibadan.’ She glanced at the people close to them. They didn’t seem to be listening.

‘Call him again and let me speak to him.’

‘His phone has been off since then, ma.’

‘Which one of them? David or the other one?’

‘Dave, ma.’

‘And the other one?’

‘Pete, ma. His phone is also off.’

‘You see? You know what that means? Frank is now making the pilots also lie to me.’

‘Maybe they’re in the air, ma.’

‘What nonsense air? You said it yourself; they did not know that Frank has taken the jet to Ibadan. What about Anita? Did you call her?’

‘Her phone is also off, ma.’

‘You see now? He and his wife are now too big to honour my invitation to celebrate their G.O.’s birthday. That boy is a snake, I’m telling you. Ever since we acquired that jet, his true colour has been coming out. A green snake in green grass. Shebi he said it is his uncle he went to bury this time? Last time it was his nephew. By the grace of God that is how they will all continue to die in his family in Jesus’ name. Family of snakes.’

The assistant nodded.

Mummy stopped a couple of metres in front of the door. She was ahead of all the guests. Her 38-year-old twin son and daughter, also senior pastors in the church, flanked her. The church worker who had checked on Daddy’s arrival exchanged smiles with the waiting camera crew with whom she now stood. The doorknob turned and the door opened. A seven-foot-tall, heavily built man stepped in, his shaven head almost touching the top of the doorframe. The bulging contours of his steroid enhanced muscles were visible under his tight black suit. He scanned the faces before him, winked at the personal assistant who had texted him to check on Daddy’s arrival, then moved aside.

Daddy stepped in with his glistening white walking stick. Tall, average build, clean shaven and with a trimmed head of grey hair, he was dressed in a beige safari suit. A purple polka dot cravat caressed his neck between the open collar of a white shirt. His walking stick clanked once on the marble porch then rested silently on the rug inside. In unison, everyone shouted, ‘Surprise!’ Daddy’s eyes swept over the beaming, smiling faces in his living room as they sang ‘Happy Birthday’. His walking stick quivered in the grip of his right hand. He let go and clutched his chest. His left leg buckled. He fell to his knees as if in prayer, and then his torso hit the ground where he jerked in spasms, prostrate before Mummy’s feet. 


  • Leye Adenle, winner of the first ever Prix Marianne in 2016, is the author of the award-winning Easy Motion Tourist, and a contributor to Lagos Noir (Akashic Books, 2018) and Sunshine Noir (White Sun Books, 2016). His short story ‘The Assassin’ was shortlisted for the CWA Short Story Dagger 2017. Adenle is from a family of writers, the most famous of whom was his grandfather, Oba Adeleye Adenle I, a former king of Oshogbo in South West Nigeria. Adenle lives in London. He has appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Open Book and is a regular panelist at literary and crime festivals.


Publisher information

Dead pastors. Corrupt government officials. And over 100 million dollars unaccounted for. Amaka is back in this electrifying third instalment in the Amaka Thrillers series.

A frantic phone call interrupts Amaka Mbadiwe’s new life in London. A renowned pastor has been assassinated in his hotel room while one of her girls, Funke, hid naked and terrified inside a sofa. Amaka is headed back to Lagos, and to a new world of private jets, money-laundering and mega-churches. With her trusted ally Police Inspector Ibrahim out of the country, and the hostile Inspector Musa breathing down her neck, Amaka must race against the clock to rescue Funke and untangle this twisted web of religion, power and politics.

With a punishing intensity, full of twists and turns, Unfinished Business oscillates with scandal, corruption and sleaze.

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