Friday, June 04, 2010

THIRTEEN HOURS: DEON MEYER


'I'm in the kitchen.' The man's voice directly ahead of her was soothing, but she felt frightened anyway.
Books. So like her parents' house. She must be safe with a book person.

Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer, translated from the Afrikaans by K.L.Seegers, is the sixth and last book I have read from the CWA International Dagger shortlist.

Rachel Anderson, a young American backpacker, is running for her life in the morning rising sun of Cape Town. The people chasing her have cut the throat of her friend, Erin, and now not being able to trust the police she runs looking for some sanctuary and rest.

Meanwhile Adam Barnard, a record company owner, has been murdered. His wife Alexandra was once a sensual blonde singer, now she is an alcoholic unable to remember what happened the previous day.

A diverse group of South African cops will investigate these crimes each with their own problems and personalities.

Recovering alcoholic Benny Griessel, an Afrikaaner, has been designated a mentor to the other "rainbow nation" police operatives on these investigations. Separated from his wife, and isolated from his children, because of his drinking he is hoping to return to the family home.

Inspector Fransman Dekker, a very handsome coloured man, has a massive and possibly justified chip on his shoulder about his situation.

'You understand fokkol, I'm telling you. You were either Baas or Klass, we were fokkol, always we weren't white enough then, we're not black enough now, it never ends, stuck in the fucking middle of the colour palette.'

Inspector Vusi Ndabeni a quiet, shy, conscientious Xhosa policeman is willing to learn from his mentor Benny, and not only about police work.

Griessel turned. Vusi came up to him. 'I just wanted to ask you....I.....uh...'
'Ask me, Vusi.'
'The pathologist...She...Do you think......Would a coloured doctor go out with a darkie cop?'

Perhaps the most interesting of the quartet is the very likeable Zulu woman Inspector Mbali Kaleni.

'You can't sit there and eat,' she said with more astonishment than authority.
Mbali Kaleni lifted a chicken drumstick out of the packet. 'I can,' she said, and took a bite.

We are thrust into the frenetic action of this exciting thriller, and Deon Meyer uses the technique of rapidly moving the reader from one perspective to another, which makes you feel part of the chase and the investigation. He also imparts a lot of information about the recording industry, and the racial mixture that is modern South Africa.
If you like intelligent fast paced thrillers with violent denouements and lots of interesting characters then I can recommend Deon Meyer. This is the second of Deon Meyer's books I have read, Blood Safari being the first, and I have enjoyed both immensely.
I wonder if South African crime fiction is going to be the main stream media's next big discovery.

7 Comments:

Blogger Maxine said...

Great review, Norman, and I love the quotes you have pulled out. They really bought the book back to me. I think the ending was a bit weak but this certainly didn't spoil the book for me. Do you think the US elements were there partly so he could attempt to break through in that market?

9:32 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks, Maxine.
I had the vague idea that Rachel Anderson coming from West Lafayette was a tribute to Sjowall and Wahloo's Roseanna who came from the even more obscure Lincoln, Nebraska, but you are probably right.
The American market is huge and he has received awards for the most "filmic" book so he might end up in Hollywood like other crime writers.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Maxine said...

I just wondered because he seemed a lot more sympathetic to the USA, and the USA's attitudes to foreign countries, than many non-US authors. (Of course, too many people in the US, mainly those living in the middle bit and not the coasts, seem unaware that there is a world outside their country.....)

1:06 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Maxine, I think "flyover country" small town and rural Americans are very parochial because they rarely travel outside their own area, or to a big city.
One lady we met in rural North Carolina said she had only ever been to the mountains [Blue Ridge] and Myrtle Beach, SC for her holidays.

I still have a soft spot for "middle bit Americans" after my car trunk sprung open by mistake in Kentucky, and when we returned to the car an hour later the trunk was open with all our luggage and gifts still there!

6:06 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Maxine, I think "flyover country" small town and rural Americans are very parochial because they rarely travel outside their own area, or to a big city.
One lady we met in rural North Carolina said she had only ever been to the mountains [Blue Ridge] and Myrtle Beach, SC for her holidays.

I still have a soft spot for "middle bit Americans" after my car trunk sprung open by mistake in Kentucky, and when we returned to the car an hour later the trunk was open with all our luggage and gifts still there!

6:06 AM  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I wonder if South African crime fiction is going to be the main stream media's next big discovery.

Yes, it will be.

I have suggested that it might indeed be the next big thing, that the mainstream media will soon discover what we already know. It's easy to come up with plausible explanations for the explosion of South African crime fiction, so the mm ought to be able to do better than its dreary, unconvincing guesses at reasons for the Nordic crime-fiction boom.

A couple of months ago, when I donned my mainstream-media hat to review Roger Smith's Wake Up Dead, I wrote that "Smith is just one of a burgeoning group of crime writers from South Africa."

Your car "trunk," you say? Sounds like you're displaying some American sympathies yourself.
==========================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

10:55 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

When in Rome.....our neighbours had their car boot broken into the other night.
People might be more honest in the USA or a more likely explanation is as opposed to six months probation you might get here, stealing from a car boot in Kentucky is classified as grand larceny auto and you go down for ten years. ;o)

1:09 AM  

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