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Blood Safari    by Deon Meyer order for
Blood Safari
by Deon Meyer
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2009 (2009)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Though I have to say that I still like Deon Meyer's stories (Heart of the Hunter and Devil's Peak) starring Xhosa warrior Thobela 'Tiny' Mpayipheli best, his other thrillers (Dead at Daybreak and Dead Before Dying) have still kept him on my must read mystery list. Now he brings us Blood Safari (translated from the Afrikaans by K. L. Seegers), starring another hero with a dark past. In this case an anger management problem led to jail time for the man who calls himself Lemmer.

The story starts slowly as Lemmer meets - and is immediately prejudiced against - his new client, tiny and lovely brand consultant Emma le Roux, who 'looked like a nymph from a children's story.' Emma's brother Jacobus disappeared (believed dead) when she was fourteen and her parents were both killed years later in a car accident.

After seeing a TV news report of a shooting incident near Kruger National Park, and enquiring about a man, Cobus (of interest to the police), whom she believed might be her lost brother, Emma suffered a home invasion by three men wearing balaclavas. She escaped to a neighbour's through the back door. Now she wants to investigate in the Lowveld, and has hired Lemmer through his employer, personal security company Body Armor, which offers protection in the form of gorillas and/or invisibles. Lemmer is one of the latter.

Why does Lemmer not take Emma's concerns about her personal danger seriously? She reminds him of dark episodes in his childhood, and resembles the petite English mother whose constant affairs triggered his enraged father into violence against his own son. 'Lemmer's Law of Small Women: Never trust them.'

As Lemmer and his new client travel together, she tries to engage him in conversation, to no avail. They have a run-in with an uncooperative local policeman, and Lemmer saves Emma from a lethal black mamba at the game reserve where they stay. They seek Cobus' whereabouts in a land that is rife with racial tensions, tribal land claims and fanatical eco-terrorism, where 'Greed has no color.' As they slowly learn more about the elusive Cobie (who may or may not be Emma's brother), people lie to them - and other people die.

When Emma and Lemmer are attacked in earnest, he discovers that he has strong feelings for her - and violent ones towards those who almost killed them both. Lemmer draws on all the resources of Body Armor to track down their attackers - and those who ordered the hit. Nothing of what he discovers makes sense to Lemmer, who finds himself up against a very powerful man who will do anything to keep dark events in their country's past in the shadows and out of the public eye.

As always Meyer's social commentary - for example that tourism in South Africa has 'become a monster that we must keep on feeding. That monster will consume us, one day' - adds depth to his novel without slowing it down one iota. As the story ends, Lemmer finally understands a good lesson taught him years before by a respected mentor, that 'We can only be human through other humans.' Don't miss Blood Safari, a gripping, very satisfying, and highly recommended read.

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