Deon Meyer has put South African crime fiction on the map. I read Seven Days in September during my break from blogging, so I thought I should say a bit more about a book that should be a contender for the 2013 International Dagger.
Seven Days is a clever blend of an Agatha Christie detective novel and a Frederick Forsyth thriller, with the carefully dropped clues [which I missed] and all the explicit detail of a gripping thriller. Hanneke Sloet, a beautiful young corporate lawyer , has been stabbed in her new luxury apartment. No one has been brought to justice and then a sniper starts shooting policemen, and the authorities receive messages with a religious slant about a cover up and corruption in the Sloet case. The sniper will continue to shoot a policeman every day until the “communist” is brought to justice for Hanneke’s murder.
Ecclesiastes 3: To every thing there is a time.
Verse 3: A time to kill, and a time to heal, a time to break down, and a time to build up.
Verse 8: a time of war, and a time of peace.
The investigation will be split between recovering alcoholic Benny Griessel, who will deal with the murder of Hanneke Sloet, and feisty Captain Mbali Kaleni who will hunt down the shooter. Along the way there are several sub-plots; Benny’s relationship with his new love interest singer Alexa Barnard, the politics of the rainbow nation, Black Economic Empowerment, the ambition and subsequent problems of Hanneke Sloet, a woman who was lovely and knew it, and policing in post apartheid South Africa.
What do you do if a member of parliament calls you up and says,’Help out a little’? You are coloured, but still not black enough for affirmative action, you have a wife and children, a mortgage on your house.
Seven Days is one of the best books I have read this year, because as well as the tension and thrills you learn so much about a very complex country. What makes a pleasant change from some authors from the Northern Hemisphere is that Meyer very rarely moralises, he just tells it like it is and leaves his readers to make up their own minds. Deon Meyer is an author on my must read list, and Seven Days keeps up the standard set in his previous books. [There is an excellent glossary of Afrikaans, Xhosa and Zulu words and other explanations at the end of the book]
‘Hayi,’ said Mbali, and her tongue clicked through the room. ‘Mama? Is that how you address an officer?’
He focused on her, astonished, saw the identity card round her neck, screwed up his eyes to decipher it. Only then did he spring to his feet, still holding the magazine. ‘Uxolo, Captain,’, he said and saluted.
‘Do not speak Xhosa to me.’