Archive for September 17, 2011

‘All Gaul is divided into three parts.’ C.Julius Caesar: Gallic Wars

I don’t know whether Deon Meyer had a classical education [says Norman failed Latin O-Level 1959] but his latest thriller Trackers is divided into three distinct parts. All the three stories are concerned with ‘tracking’ in its various forms, animal tracking, satellite tracking and a detective tracking the trail left by a missing person, and in all three the violent drug gangs that blight the country play some part.

Maxine of Petrona in her review of Trackers states that ‘I think this is the best thriller I’ve ever read’. After The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth I think this might be the best ‘three’ thrillers I have read, because the different strands of the story are almost self contained and each is worthy of a separate book. Deon Meyer’s great skill is in getting them to briefly overlap, and creating an ending that leaves you wanting to pick up and start reading a sequel right away. The translation from the original Afrikaans by Laura Seegers lets the story [stories] flow and uses just enough words from South Africa’s eleven official languages plus slang to create the right atmosphere. There is a useful glossary at the back of the book.

The first part of Trackers is the story of Milla Strachan, a forty something white woman who after years of abuse at the hands of her husband and unappreciative son, leaves home to start a fresh life. A former journalist she finds a job with a government surveillance unit unit, the P.I.A. [Presidential Intelligence Agency] writing reports on their targets. The PIA are monitoring an Islamist terror cell that appears to be about to instigate an attack. For an organization whose efficiency is damaged by internal conflicts, Milla, the runaway housewife, is an ideal recruit:

‘I mean, look at us. The rest of the Agency is a model of affirmative action, a perfect reflection of the Rainbow Nation, but we are all white, all over forty, and all fucked up.’

But by chance Milla  meets Becker, a man on a mission, and her life gets very complicated.

The second part reintroduces the reader to Lemmer, from Blood Safari, who is recruited by local cheat and rascal Diederik Brand to help bring in a pair of valuable black rhinos from Zimbabawe. The rhinos are looked after by the beautiful Cornelia ‘Flea’ van Jaarsveld, a tracker, a “vet” and a consummate manipulator, who will accompany Lemmer on a mission that will test his survival skills. Lemmer’s dislike of rich Afrikaners produces some sharp social commentary.

‘It means they sit around eating expensive, impress the neighbours Woollies’ food in their in their huge, luxurious houses behind high walls and alarm systems, in front of their Hi-Def flat screen TVs, with a Mercedes ML, two quad bikes, a harley, and a speedboat squeezed into their triple garages, and they bitch about how bad things are in this country….’

……..’They have no culture apart from spending money and drinking………..Their forefathers at Magersfontein and Paardeberg would spin in their graves……’

The third part of the story which doesn’t start till page 347 is in my opinion the best. Matt Joubert has recently  retired from the SAPS [South African Police Service] where he was Head of the Serious and Violent Crimes Unit in the Cape, and joined Jack Fischer and Associates as a Senior Security Consultant. The world of the private investigator is very different from his experience in the police. He discovers this quickly as Jack Fischer introduces Matt to his first client Tanya Flint who is searching for Danie her husband who has disappeared.

‘Now before I leave you in his very capable hands, just a few admin matters. You understand that, should we accept your case, there is a deposit payable?’

Matt investigates Danie Flint’s disappearance systematically tracking the electronic and physical signs that we all leave behind as we move through life, but he is concerned that  in this new private investigator’s world charging the client for all the extras is even more important than solving the case. He also becomes very worried as the evidence mounts that Danie did not disappear voluntarily. 

Deon Meyer has written a very exciting and complex thriller, with some sharply critical social commentary about the problems of the Rainbow Nation, and as a master of his craft he leaves you, even after 475 pages wanting more, and more. Trackers is one of the best thrillers I have read, and in my opinion it must surely be a contender for the 2012 CWA International Dagger.