The Witchdoctor's Bones
(Published April 2014)
Photo: Bradford Dunlop

​A Suspense-filled Journey That Won't Soon Be Forgotten
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

A Masterful Job of Drawing The Reader In
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

You Won't Be Able To Tear Yourself Away
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

The Tension Ratchets Higher and Higher
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

A Gripping Read That Draws You Into the Heart of Darkness
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

Excursion Into the Nastier Regions of Human Desire
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

Romance, Suspense and Serial Killers
The Witchdoctor’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 travelers 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
Cover artwork by Wopko Jensma

The Dark Side of the Soul and The Healing Power of Love 
"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, national bestselling author of The Witch of Babylon and The Book of Stolen Tales.
Seethes With Peril... Stripped of The Niceties and Rigours of Polite Society
Imagine you've signed up for a low-budget safari in South Africa and find yourself cheek-to-cheek on a battered van with the most bizarre travellers you've ever met – except in some ways they do remind you of characters you've encountered in a late-night screening of ‘Moulin Rouge.’ You know, the kinds of people you don't naturally gravitate toward but whom you're unable to ignore. You're drawn in. Illicit love, rejected love, misfired love, machinations of all sorts, and all involving characters of dubious integrity and (in some cases) of questionable sanity. Such are the players in Lisa de Nikolits's, The Witchdoctor's Bones, who've embarked on a journey that seethes with peril (physical and psychological), and not solely because of the wild creatures roaming the bush veld. 

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. Nothing is familiar. Nor do people even speak the same language. Tour leader Jono whispers in his Khosa tongue, only to be drowned out by the harsh words of Stepfan the German. One imagines sweet-talking Kate, the Canadian, is the closest thing you get to a heroine in The Witchdoctor's Bones, as proof that the best woman will be left standing.

As safari guide Joso cautions his guests early in the novel, "This is a land of heat and dust and you will wonder how anybody survived? – Doug O’Neill, Executive Editor, Canadian Living

Presenting The Witchdoctor's Bones at The Ontario Library Association's Annual Super Conference 2014
From top left: At the Literary Press Group booth, with Lisa Dalrymple, presenting The Witchdoctor's Bones in one minute and 50 seconds, the massive convention hall filled with booths, me with Tanya Snyder of the Literary Press Group, me with Rosemary McCracken and Dorothy McIntosh, with Evan Munday and my gothic alter-ego portrait. 
Reading from The Witchdoctor's Bones at the Sisters In Crime, 2014
Reading from The Witchdoctor's Bones at the Sisters in Crime, Toronto Branch. From top left: with Joan O'Callaghan. Bottom left: Lyn Murphy, Melodie Campbell, Rosemary McCracken, Joan O'Callaghan and Madeleine Harris-Callway
A Suspense-filled Page-turner That Will Bewitch You
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)

​The Witchdoctor's Bones

In The Witchdoctor’s Bones, a group of tourists gather. 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 travelers 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.
Excerpt from The Witchdoctor's Bones

“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. I felt quite dreadful for asking.”

Jono laughed, and drank 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.”

“How can you cure a person of being a witch?” Kate asked.

“If you think you have a witch,” Jono explained, “then you must call an isanusi, a professional who can smell out witches and get rid of them. In some places, Zimbabwe for instance, people there believe that witches ride hyenas at night, and if you spot a person traveling on the back of a hyena, then that person is a witch.” 

“I hate hyenas,” Marika muttered and she gave a shiver. 
“They’re evil; creatures of the devil.” 

“There are many kinds of witches,” Jono 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. They can change innocent people into animals also. Now, if you are poisoned by a witch, then you die and your spirit becomes a slave to the witch. 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.”

 “Isn’t it true,” Helen queried when the laughter died down, “that Western doctors found a high correlation between schizophrenia and epilepsy in individuals who have been accused of being witches?”

Jono nodded. “Which would explain the hallucinations they have,” he said. “And some of them have also been found to be manic-depressives and schizophrenics. But if you ask me, this does not mean that Western medicine has any kind of increased knowledge in this area, it’s just that you call your witches by a lot of medical-sounding names and find different ways to treat them.”

“Touché.” Richard exclaimed.
Events Calendar (with more to come)

• 17 September, reading at Round with Chizine Reading Series

• 17 October, 7pm, Makin' A Racket at The Red Rocket on the Danforth

• 13-16 November, Bouchercon, Long Beach California (including a reading at Gatsby Books on the evening of Wednesday 12th November)
I took a trip to Namibia, which was the catalyst for the novel, The Witchdoctor's Bones. Here are some pictures from that trip. Click link to take you to Pinterest:
The Inaugural Reading of The Witchdoctor's Bones! With the Crime Writers of Canada, at the Arthur Ellis Shortlist Event, at Indigo at the Manulife Centre - a wonderful evening! 

Reading at The Raw Sugar Café, courtesy Octopus Books, 26th April. A lovely afternoon in Ottawa!
Reading at Night Out With Authors at the Tranzac Club in Toronto,28th April, another marvelous evening!
A wonderful evening! With a strange anecdote: On my way to get a sandwich for dinner, I saw a bookmark lying on the sidewalk. (Now, bear in mind, I am never over at this part of town). I bent down to pick it up only to find it was one of my bookmarks, from two books ago! Very strange really!
Wonderful launch for The Witchdoctor's Bones at The Supermarket, Kensington. It was a truly great evening!
Blog post mentions:
How to Survive A Public Reading:
Jason E Hodges, The Dirt Worker's Journal: "I would romanticize about the writers who came before me like The Lost Generation or The Beats. I would daydream about their interaction with one another and pondered if I would ever be part of something so special. Who would be my friends in the world of writing once I was finally published…"

Dee Holmes, on the launch of The Witchdoctor's Bones: "" It’s no surprise that she is such a fantastic story-teller." 

Mayank Bhatt on Generally About Books: Why Africa?:
Launch photos: Bradford Dunlop

Witchdoctor earrings by Nici Shipway,
A Gripping Book
The Witchdoctor's Bones passed the bus test--I read it all the way home from Toronto to Kingston and then stayed up till 1:30 am finishing it (and was a wreck the next day). The sixteen people on the bus are very carefully chosen, and create a suitable amount of conflict and humour, welcome in such a gripping book.
Kate is a very likeable heroine! And she does provide a moral compass for the book--so that I finished it with vision cleared--and that doesn't always happen in a thriller. Elizabeth Greene, author of under stories

Tight Narrative Control
The Witchdoctor's Bones is a riveting, rollicking ride of a book, what a thriller, and an unusual one (because of the setting), it would make a great movie I think. perhaps a movie person will read and see it and take it one day..? i can imagine that. Anyway, it's thrilling and sexy and nasty and interesting, and has tight narrative control (the main character's voice, which is very clear and distinct). Dawn Promislow, author of Jewels and Other Stories

Masterfully Unsettling and Unpredictable
The Witchdoctor's Bones is absolutely gripping. Lisa de Nikolits excels in artfully alternating from playful tourist banter to plot twists that are masterfully unsettling and unpredictable. This book was quite different from an earlier de Nikolits novel, A Glittering Chaos, but in both I loved the subtle exploration of who we are when we are away from home, the ways in which vacations can change who we are and how we see ourselves and the capacity for travel to broaden our perspectives on the world around us--if we are open to that potential. Also, if you have a chance to hear Lisa read live, I recommend that too! – Evadne Macedo, writer in Descant

Loved It!
I just wanted to let you know that I literally just put down my copy of the The Witchdoctor's Bones and it was absolutely fabulous (although I have to say I'm dying to know what Kate's plan was for her and Andre!) You kept me guessing until the very end - it was like a fantastic murder mystery party taking place on a travelling tour bus, everyone knew something about someone else and I just couldn't figure out how everything added up, until you wanted me to know that is - spectacular!! I really enjoyed it and I would love to read some of your other books! I will look for them at Chapters! – Anna Redman
The reading got a lovely review in Centretown Buzz, a local Ottawa newspaper.
Niagara On The Lake Public Library Book Fair. In association with the Niagara Literary Festival
From top left: Cathy Marie Buchanan reading from her novel,The Painted Girls. Toronto Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke holds his copy of A Glittering Chaos. S.E.Campbell with her book, Elizabeth's Quest. Next, Trudi Down from The Book Band, Michael Callaghan from Exile Editions with Jordan Fry of The Niagara Literary Festival. Hermine Steinberg of the Niagara On The Lake Writers' Circle.
Bloody Words, Murder Mystery Crime Conference Toronto, June 2014
We all had a great time at Books With Legs - we got to strut our stuff on the catwalk, wearing over-sized book covers! It was a lot of fun!
The event started with a wonderful cheese and wine reception.
Panels featured highly acclaimed authors including D.J. McIntosh, Cathy Astolfo, Craig Davidson, International Guest of Honour, Michael Jecks, Maureen Jennings, Elizabeth Duncan, Vicki Delany (Canadian Gues of Honour) and many more. I signed books at the Sisters In Crime table and at the Crime Writers of Canada.The banquet on Saturday evening was festive and fun-filled and a very jolly time was had by all!
Reading at Makin' a Racket at the Red Rocket. At the Red Rocket Café on the Danforth, Toronto
From top left: Poet Adam Abbas, Chuck Crabbe reading from his book As A Thief In The Night, poet Norman Allan Bethune, playwright and MC Sandra Cardinal.
A Great Read - Not To Be Missed!
Sixteen travelers embark on a voyage into South Africa's hinterland. Although each has different motivations for the journey, and some of those are strange, the trip begins in a light hearted enough fashion. As the trip continues, the harsh yet beautiful landscape, racial prejudices, mystic beliefs, jealousies and social group dynamics, combine to spiral into darkness. A great read - not to be missed! D.J. McIntosh, The Witch of Babylon, The Book of Stolen Tales

What A Fun Read
What a fun read. You handle an assortment of characters so well. And I love the witchdoctor lore you weave into the story. Catherine Graham, Her Red Hair Rises With The Wings of Insects

Some Books Hold You and Won't Let You Go
Have you ever read a novel and had it bring you to a place you have never been and when the book ends you can never leave? I finished Lisa De Nikolits' fourth novel The Witchdoctor’s Bones and I cannot get her landscape and her characters out of my mind. It’s a rare skill in today’s landscape of ephemeral entertainment. Books like these let you live differently because they bring you to another place or space. Linda Cahill, Thirteen
Note: The Hungry Mirror, West of Wawa, The Witchdoctor's Bones, A Glittering Chaos, Between The Cracks She Fell, The Nearly Girl, Single Girls Go Mad Sooner and Cannibals of the Afterlife are all works of fiction by Lisa de Nikolits. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All work is original and the author holds copyright.

Email address: [email protected]
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