Little, Brown & Co., 2008 (2008)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
eaders who enjoyed Deon Meyer's
Heart of the Hunter
could tell that Xhosa warrior Thobela '
' Mpayipheli was too good a character to be allowed to fade
happily every after
into the sunset on his BMW motorbike. After working overseas as a government assassin and a stint as an enforcer for organized crime, Thobela tried to settle down to a quiet satisfying life with the love of his life, Miriam, and her son Pakamile. But this was not to be.
, Deon Meyer interweaves three strong strands of story. He opens on a young prostitute making a shocking confession to a clergyman. That unfolding account is interspersed throughout the thriller. Then we spend time with Thobela. Miriam has died and Thobela has adopted Pakamile, who is now the center of his life, rewarding his father with '
absolute acceptance ... unconditional love.
' After that idyllic life is tragically interrupted, the Xhosa hunter realizes that '
guilt and loss were not all that lay within him.
' Finally we meet Inspector Benny Griessel (an insightful and briliant policeman until he became an alcoholic) whose boss is Murder and Robbery Superintendant Mat Joubert of
Dead Before Dying
. As the story opens, and after seventeen years of his drinking, Benny's wife Anna has had enough. She throws him out, giving him six months to choose between his family and the booze.
he young woman tells a story of an abusive childhood, and how she came to have her own daughter Sonia, to work in the sex trade, and to have Columbian drug lord Carlos Sangrenegra as one of her clients. We see Thobela become a vigilante, seeking out clearcut cases where justice was not served by the courts, telling himself the end justifies the means - and it's hard not to agree with him in many cases described here. He uses an assegai to serve out his own justice. And we see Benny - who used to believe that he could make a difference and that justice would triumph - struggling between his need for booze and his hope of rejoining his family once more. Mat Joubert assigns the assegai killings to Benny, who is determined to stop them. For despite Benny's cynicism about the
(he tends to agree with Thobela that it's failed) he makes convincing arguments against vigilante action.
radually, the reader sees the pattern of the narrator's manipulations, unsure whether they were done to protect her child or for cold cash. Whatever the intent, they result in horrifying collateral damage. After Benny baits a trap to catch the assegai killer, it backfires shockingly, leading him to seek help from a most unlikely source. As usual, Deon Meyer pulls all these plot strands together in an outstanding - and highly satisfying - conclusion, not a happily ever after ending but a realistic one. Don't miss
, yet another exceptional, intelligent thriller from Deon Meyer.
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