Will Packer, Kerry Washington

Described as “‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ meets ‘Gone Girl'” (Amazon), author Natalie C. Anderson’s Kenya-set murder mystery “City of Saints & Thieves” has been optioned by Universal Pictures for Will Packer’s Will Packer Productions and Kerry Washington’s Simpson Street shingle to potentially produce.

The story: In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn’t exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill’s personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it. With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.

Packer and Washington are in negotiations to producer (via their respective production companies), with Melina Matsoukas sought to direct; she directed multiple episodes of Issa Rae’s “Insecure,” as well as Beyoncé’s “Formation” and “Pretty Hurts” music videos; she also contributed to “Lemonade.”

No word on casting at this time (or if Washington plans to appear in the film), but, per Deadline, who first reported on the project, the studio is moving ahead swiftly, suggesting that they want to get this into development soon.

The novel was published just about 3 weeks ago, on January 24. If you’ve already read it, share your thoughts in the comments section below. You can also pick up a copy for yourself here.

Packer. who has a first-look deal with Universal, continues to build out his rapidly growing library of credits, many of them box office successes. This year, he has “Girls Trip” and a “Jacob’s Ladder” remake scheduled for release, after a busy 2016 that saw 2 feature films and 2 TV series (one an event series) that he either produced or executive produced. Washington whose ABC series “Scandal” was recently renewed for a 7th season, has a Tri-Star adaptation of author Aimee Molloy’s novel “The Perfect Mother” on her to-do list, both starring and producing. She received an Emmy-nomination last year for the HBO movie “Confirmation” (also produced via her Simpson Street production company), in which she portrayed Anita Hill.

Deadline was first to report the “City of Saints & Thieves” news.