Monday, October 3, 2011

Deon Meyer's Cape Town

A very different picture emerges when you read the dark thrillers of Deon Meyer. He recently appeared at a reading festival in Cape Town which we missed by just a few days. That was a disappointment! Still, I had made sure to download at least one of his novels to have with me while visiting this city that seems to have a noir underbelly which is only alluded to by your shopkeepers and hoteliers.

Devil’s Peak is a tough read for those who may not have started at the beginning of the series. Benny Griessel is an Afrikaaner, an intuitively astute detective on the verge of collapse. He is a raging alcoholic and at the beginning of this story, he has been kicked out by his wife Anna and given an ultimatum, 6 months to get it together if he wants his job and family back. I don’t think I’ve ever read such a compelling, devastating description of what goes on in the mind of a person whose only reason for existence is the next drop of alcohol.

There are two cases going on in the novel, one is being told in retrospect by Christine, a young, single mom who has turned to prostitution to support herself and her daughter Sonia. Her reasoning is clear-eyed and sensible but she didn’t bank on Carlos Santenegra, a proud drug baron whose possessiveness and jealousy moves him to begin stalking her, beating her other clients, and finally asking her to move into his Camps Bay compound where she’ll be monitored 24/7 by his henchmen.

On the other hand there is an ongoing situation involving a vigilante killer who employs an unusual weapon, an old-fashioned, assegai, warrior’s spear. Benny is in rehab, only 9 days sober, but has been assigned to head up this investigation, to resentful doubts from his co-workers. An additional concern is that many on the department believe that the murderer is doing the right thing, targeting pedophiles and baby killers whom the laws can’t seem to convict.

These two stories move toward each other at a compelling speed until you simply can’t put the book down. Underlying the traditional police procedural is Meyer’s nuanced take on post-Apartheid South Africa. He manages to show readers the tenuous truces that have been made between blacks, coloreds, and Afrikaaners while allowing his characters’ actions to also explicate the simmering resentments still there beneath the surface.


Linda said...

I can't believe you continue to write reviews during your travels! It was really interesting reading your review of the Deon Meyer's book, knowing you've been to Cape Town. I'm reading "The Informationist" by Taylor Stevens, and much of it takes place in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Not my usual fare, but I'm enjoying it. (I grabbed it after reading that the author grew up in the Children of God cult.) Can't wait to hear about your adventures when you return. I'm going to go back and read your other postings now.
Safe travels, LKH

Sallyb said...

Hey Linda, I'm on hold for The Informatist and Don said it sounds good to him too. This week we have been WAY out in the country and reading has been wonderful. Also just finishing up Anne Enright's latest which is fantastic! At an InternetCafe at the airport. The party's over...