Petals of Blood
a novel by Ngugi, published in 1977. A disturbing, passionately political book that also works as a thriller, the story begins after a fire in a brothel has killed three prominent, corrupt African directors of the foreign-owned brewery in Ilmorog, a traditional village now transformed into a sprawling modern industrial town. Held for questioning are the novel's four important characters—Munira, Karega, Abdulla, and Wanja—who have all striven in vain to reach accommodation with the New Kenya, where unbridled capitalism has altered the balance of social forces. Their interlocking backgrounds, hidden lives and loves, come to light in a series of flashbacks. Munira went to Ilmorog to be headmaster of the school but, twelve years later, worldly contradictions have driven him to religious fanaticism. Abdulla, dis-illusioned shopkeeper and barman, was once a guerrilla fighter in the freedom struggle. The attractive and resourceful Wanja was employed as his barmaid, but latterly has turned to prostitution. Karega was an untrained teacher until Munira's jealousy of his relationship with Wanja led to his dismissal; returning to Ilmorog as a militant trade unionist, he has tried to organize the exploited brewery workers. The profound changes wrought in the fabric and character of Ilmorog are related to the arrival of the Trans-Africa Highway; and the factory brewing of Theng'eta, a potent native drink, epitomizes the uncompromising new spirit of enterprise. The three dead men belong to a latter-day élite of businessmen and politicians who reap the profits; and though it transpires that the four murder suspects each had motive enough to have sought revenge, it is Munira who reveals himself as the arsonist. Characteristically, Ngugi goes for an ending that allows hope for the dispossessed.