Petals of Blood (1977)
by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
I actively look forward to African authors when they appear on the 1001 Books list. So far that list consists of a handful of white people from Southern Africa, Chinua Achebe (west Africa) and Ngugi wa Thiong'o (east Africa). Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o famously dropped English as his preferred language, instead choosing to develop the literature of his native Gikuyu. Petals of Blood was written before that shift, and it is a novel that is steeped in the Western literary tradition, with elements of Balzac and American detective fiction entwined with the themes of colonialism and economic development.
It is a classic mix of inspirations, transported to East Africa. Nominally a who-dunnit about a detective trying to solve the deaths of three local big wigs in the home of a powerful local madam, Petals of Blood is really a broad statement about the impact of independence on the Kenyan people. Spoiler alert: The rich get richer.