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Murder at Morija

Faith, Mystery, and Tragedy on an African Mission
Tim Couzens

BUY Paper · 496 pp. · 6.125 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813925295 · $27.50 · Nov 2005

Just before Christmas in 1920, six people sat down to a meal at Morija, headquarters of the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society in Basutoland (Lesotho). All six were taken violently ill, and one of them died. They had been poisoned. The dead man was Édouard Jacottet, an eminent scholar and missionary. There was no trial and subsequently no one was ever convicted of the murder.Who killed Jacottet? Drawing on the great tradition of the "locked room" detective story, Tim Couzens sets out, eighty years after the event, to solve the crime. Why was Jacottet killed? The answer lies buried deep in the past and is revealed here -- for the first time -- in a tale of heroism and courage, of sacrifice, deception, betrayal, and faith.

Written and researched with extraordinary care, this is a brilliant piece of detective work, but it is also much more. It is the biography of a deeply committed man, and a history of the Christian mission he served in an isolated African country to whose people and language he devoted his life before it was brutally cut short in strange circumstances. And the story is a national and religious epic, enclosed in a classical tragedy tempered with the sardonic smile of comedy.

A compelling, groundbreaking study, Murder at Morija is the outcome of many years of travel and detailed inquiry by its author in pursuit of elusive solutions to complex mysteries.


I would thoroughly recommend this book. It has all the ingredients of a superbly told crime novel, with the suspense and false leads and the exhilaration of solving the clues, but it also provides great insights into the history of mission and of Lesotho culture, politics, and society.

Kevin Ward, University of Leeds · African Studies Bulletin

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