The Witchdoctor’s Bones
a novel by Lisa de Nikolits

Print: 978-177133-126-5
ePUB: 978-177133-162-3
PDF: 978-177133-129-6

388 Pages
April 23, 2014
Fiction All Titles Novel

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The Witchdoctor’s Bones a novel by Lisa de Nikolits

In The Witchdoctor’s Bones a group of tourists gather in Namibia. Some have come to holiday, others to murder. Canadian Kate ditches her two-timing boyfriend and heads to Africa on a whim, hoping for adventure, encountering the unexpected and proving an intrepid adversary to mayhem. The tour is led by Jono, a Zimbabwean historian and philosopher, and the travellers follow him from Cape Town into the Namib desert, learning ancient secrets of the Bushmen, the power of witchcraft and superstition, and even the origins of Nazi evil.

A ragged bunch ranging from teenagers to retired couples, each member of the group faces their own challenges as third world Africa pits against first world greed, murderous intent and thwarted desire. The battle between goaded vanity and frustrated appetite culminates in a surprising conclusion with shocking twists. With the bones of consequence easily buried in the shifting sands, a holiday becomes a test of moral character.

Unpredictable, flawed, fun-loving, courageous, bizarre, weak, kind-hearted and loathsome; the individuals in this novel exist beyond the page and into real life. Seamlessly weaving history and folklore into a plot of loss, passion and intrigue, the reader is kept informed and entertained as this psychological thriller unfolds.

The Witchdoctor's Bones
 

Originally from South Africa, Lisa de Nikolits has been a Canadian citizen since 2003. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Philosophy and has lived and worked in the United States, Australia and Britain. As an art director, she has worked on marie claire, Vogue Australia, Vogue Living, Cosmopolitan and SHE magazines. Her first novel, The Hungry Mirror, was published by Inanna Publications in 2010 and was awarded the IPPY Gold Medal for literature on women’s issues in 2011, as well as long-listed for the 2011 ReLit Awards. Her second novel, West of Wawa, was published by Inanna in 2011 and was one of four Chatelaine Bookclub Editor’s Picks and was awarded the IPPY Silver Medal for Popular Fiction in 2012. Her third novel, A Glittering Chaos was recently awarded the 2014 IPPY Silver for Popular Fiction. Lisa lives and works in Toronto.

"Lisa de Nikolits knocks it out of the park with a fast-paced thriller: a busload of characters on a tour of South Africa/Namibia meet mayhem, witchcraft, sexual passion and more than a dose of insanity. Telling the story from an omniscient point of view signals to us that the author wants us to pay attention to the group dynamic -- and the story's unique and spectacular setting -- as much as to the psyches of the characters. Some individuals register strongly, others make less of an impression, but the over-all impact of the story itself is gutsy, entertaining and, in its final pages, beyond bizarre. Tuck it into your travel bag for your next vacation -- if you can wait that long."
- Carole Giangrande, author of Midsummer

“By planting her characters in the untamed landscape of the South African wilderness, de Nikolits has stripped away the niceties and rigours of polite society. You’re drawn in. Illicit love, rejected love, misfired love, machinations of all sorts. Embark on a journey that seethes with peril.”
— Doug O'Neill, Canadian Living Magazine

"The Witchdoctor’s Bones is the latest from Lisa de Nikolits. I’ve heard Lisa present sections of her novels at various reading nights over the past couple of years. She always manages to present tidy snippets of complex novels, that stand alone but invite us to want to read the whole novel.

The Withdoctor’s Bones follows the well-established structure of strangers on a journey revealing their lives, secrets and fears as they travel. From The Canterbury Tales to Then There Were None’ this story telling framework gives writers a strong form to work with.

In The Witchdoctor’s Bones, we join a disparate group of travellers on a bus tour from Cape Town, South Africa to Fort Namutoni, Namibia. As they travel, tempers and passions flair. Death follows increasing tension as the novel progresses.

Lisa handles a large cast well, each of the tourists has a clear personality, motives become clear and then vague as more layers of their lives are peeled back. She also conveys a real sense of place, the heat, the dust, the humor and bus ride itself.

In conveying so many details about the tour the book verges on a travel guide but the information is parceled out in digestible portions and never overwhelms the story as it unfolds.

If romance, suspense and serial killers under the African sun are your cup of tea this book is for you."

– Duncan Armstrong, writer, poet, spoken-word performer

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"In The Witchdoctor’s Bones, Lisa de Nikolits drives a busload of seemingly
normal souls into the heart of Africa, revealing the baggage they've dragged
 along, piece by sweaty piece. Against a backdrop of Bushmen tales and
geography she clearly loves, de Nikolits creates by turns a lusty dusty romp
and excursions to the nastier regions of human desire. Passions both
wandering and misplaced pull the story ever deeper down a bumpy road. Well
worth the trip!
– Rob Brunet, author of Stinking Rich

"Beautiful, sexy, exciting, mysterious, dangerous and twisted.  Those words can be used to describe not only the alluring locations depicted in Lisa de Nikolits’ thrilling novel The Witchdoctor’s Bones, but also some of the eclectic characters fatefully traveling together on a tour bus through South Africa and Namibia.  A suspenseful page-turner that will bewitch you until the end.

Warning: You may get hungry reading this book. Some of the exotic dishes described in this novel sound so enticing you may want to risk being on a bus-load of crazy people to sample them."
-   Alexander Galant, author of Depth of Deception (A Titanic Murder Mystery)

"What I really enjoy about Lisa de Nikolits is her refusal to be pinned down to a particular genre. Besides the fact that The Witchdoctor’s Bones is so different from all her other novels, it’s also incredibly difficult to classify it in its own right. Part travelogue, part psychological thriller, part sociological and anthropological study, The Witchdoctor’s Bones entertains, educates and fascinates all at the same time. It’s a gripping read that draws you into the heart of darkness, both in the literal and figurative sense; the action takes place in untamed Africa, but it’s the darkness in the human heart that de Nikolits portrays with such chilling precision. It’s a page-turner that will keep you biting your nails right up to the bitter end."
- Bianca Marais, Musings of a Wannabe Writer http://biancamarais.com/

“Some came to holiday, some came to murder…” Take sixteen travellers from around the world, gather them on a tour bus bumping its way along the rough roads of South Africa and Namibia, add jealousy, sexual obsession, secrets, violence, magic, poison, mental breakdown and the breathtaking arrogance of tourists treating Africa (and Africans) as their playthings, and you have Lisa de Nikolits’ psychological thriller, The Withdoctor’s Bones. As the travellers and their guides slowly reveal their true (and sometimes twisted) natures, the tension ratchets higher and higher in a narrative that draws deeply on African lore and history, with echoes of Christie’s classic Ten Little Indians, Katherine Anne Porter’s Ship of Fools and Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales."
- Terri Favro, author of The Proxy Bride

"Put together an international group of travelers, each with their own secrets, in a bus touring Africa and you have the makings of a very suspenseful tale! Lisa de Nikolits does a masterful job of drawing the reader in and not letting go until the last delicious word! Set against an exotic backdrop of Africa and Namibia, this story is a great read!"
– Joan O'Callaghan, editor and contributing author of Thirteen

"A cast of intriguing characters is thrust together for an African adventure. What results is far more perilous than anyone could have imagined. Against the beautiful backdrop of South Africa and Namibia, danger and death lurk around every bend in the road, as the trip of a lifetime becomes the holiday from hell. Within the pages of The Witchdoctor's Bones multiple mysteries emerge, as Lisa de Nikolits takes the reader on a suspense-filled journey that won't soon be forgotten."
- Liz Bugg, author of the Calli Barnow Series

"Fascinating South African lore comes to life in The Witchdoctor's Bones. De Nikolits gives us more than an intriguing mystery - a look at the dark side of the human soul and the healing power of love."
- D.J. McIntosh, bestselling author of The Witch of Babylon

"Lisa de Nikolits has done it again. This time she shines her characteristically unflinching but loving and humour-filled gaze on the land of her birth, deftly weaving Africa’s ancient witchcraft practices, superstitions, breathtaking beauty and disturbing struggles into the journey of a group of modern-day tourists — whose motives for coming on the “trip of a lifetime” are in some cases highly suspect. The myriad conflicts between the characters are handled so subtly and the physical terrain of southern Africa painted so vividly, you won’t be able to tear yourself away from your own seat on the bus, even as the body count begins to rise."
- Brenda Missen, author of Tell Anna She's Safe


 

“I’m trying to explain the difference between sangomas versus witchdoctors,” Helen said, sitting back on her heels. “I thought I knew but then once I started explaining it, I realised I’m confused. Jono, maybe you can help us out?”
   “I can,” Jono said, accepting a beer from Richard. “Thank you. First, some facts. Eighty-four percent of all South Africans consult a sangoma more than three times a year and there are more than 200,000 sangomas in South Africa alone. A witch and a sangoma are not the same thing whereas a witchdoctor,” he emphasized the last word, “is the same thing as a sangoma but the term witchdoctor is considered to be a perjorative one that came from the European settlers. Sangomas are practitioners of complimentary medicine and they serve a long apprenticeship learning to become intermediaries between the world of spirits and the world of the living. Witches are a whole other thing, they are evil and dangerous and if they cannot be cured, they are stoned to death or buried alive.”
   “Yes, they certainly gave Kleine Skok the heebie jeebies,” Richard stretched his feet towards the fire. “Poor fellow, he had this godawful lump of dried up rabbit’s blood and I asked him if that was something a witchdoctor would use and he nearly shot right off the mountain..."      
   Jono laughed and took a drink of his beer. “Yes, I can imagine that frightened him in a big way. More than six hundred people have been killed in the last ten years in Gauteng alone, because they were accused of being witches, so even the mention of such a thing is frightening for many people.”
   “Can you cure someone of being a witch?” Eva asked.
   “Yes, but it’s not easy,” Jono said. “You have to call an isanusi, a professional who can smell out witches and get rid of them.
   “There are many kinds of witches,” he continued, “one of which is the night-witch who is invisible during the daytime but then at night, changes into an animal; a crocodile, a hyena, a lion, a wolf maybe. Night-witches devour human bodies, dead or alive during the night and they can been seen flying at night, with fire coming out of their bottoms.”
   “They fart fire?” Mia found this hysterically funny and the rest of the group joined in, laughing. “Oh lord, fire-farting witches, knock my bleedin’ socks off.”

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