Archive for June 4, 2010

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I’m in the kitchen.’ The man’s voice directly ahead of her was soothing, but she felt frightened anyway.

Books. So like her parents’ house. She must be safe with a book person.

Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer, translated from the Afrikaans by K.L.Seegers, is the sixth and last book I have read from the CWA International Dagger shortlist.

Rachel Anderson, a young American backpacker, is running for her life in the morning rising sun of Cape Town. The people chasing her have cut the throat of her friend, Erin, and now not being able to trust the police she runs looking for some sanctuary and rest.

Meanwhile Adam Barnard, a record company owner, has been murdered. His wife Alexandra was once a sensual blonde singer, now she is an alcoholic unable to remember what happened the previous day.

A diverse group of South African cops will investigate these crimes each with their own problems and personalities.

Recovering alcoholic Benny Griessel, an Afrikaaner, has been designated a mentor to the other “rainbow nation” police operatives on these investigations. Separated from his wife, and isolated from his children, because of his drinking he is hoping to return to the family home.

Inspector Fransman Dekker, a very handsome coloured man, has a massive and possibly justified chip on his shoulder about his situation.

‘You understand fokkol, I’m telling you. You were either Baas or Klass, we were fokkol, always we weren’t white enough then, we’re not black enough now, it never ends, stuck in the fucking middle of the colour palette.’

Inspector Vusi Ndabeni a quiet, shy, conscientious Xhosa policeman is willing to learn from his mentor Benny, and not only about police work.

Griessel turned. Vusi came up to him. ‘I just wanted to ask you….I…..uh…’
‘Ask me, Vusi.’
‘The pathologist…She…Do you think……Would a coloured doctor go out with a darkie cop?’

Perhaps the most interesting of the quartet is the very likeable Zulu woman Inspector Mbali Kaleni.

You can’t sit there and eat,’ she said with more astonishment than authority.
Mbali Kaleni lifted a chicken drumstick out of the packet. ‘I can,’ she said, and took a bite.

We are thrust into the frenetic action of this exciting thriller, and Deon Meyer uses the technique of rapidly moving the reader from one perspective to another, which makes you feel part of the chase and the investigation. He also imparts a lot of information about the recording industry, and the racial mixture that is modern South Africa.
If you like intelligent fast paced thrillers with violent denouements and lots of interesting characters then I can recommend Deon Meyer. This is the second of Deon Meyer’s books I have read, Blood Safari being the first, and I have enjoyed both immensely.
I wonder if South African crime fiction is going to be the main stream media’s next big discovery.