Thobela "Tiny" Mpayipheli, a Xhosa, is a former soldier trained in Russia and the old East Germany. When his eight year old adopted son Pakamile is killed in a filling station hold- up he seeks justice in the courts. When that fails him he takes on a mission to get justice for all abused children in the only way he knows.
Thobela is a damaged individual, and so are the other two main characters in the story.
Benny Griessel, an alcoholic who has been thrown out of the house by his wife Anna. He was once a great detective, but now he struggles with his demons. He must remain sober for six months for Anna to take him back into the family home. But Benny has seen too many dead bodies and has a bitterness within him.
'Look here. This is a white skin. What does it mean? Twenty-six years in the Force and it means fuck all. It's not the booze-I'm not stuck in the rank of inspector because of the booze.'
Benny has the task of tracking down an assegai wielding vigilante, while he copes with his alcoholism, media pressure and rivalries between the various departments of the Force.
Christine van Rooyen is a beautiful blonde prostitute who has a young daughter. She has chosen that life for the money and for the feeling of power over men that it gives her. But she is as damaged as Thobela and Benny. When Christine gets a regular client who can't be controlled, the three strands of the story will meet in a violent ending.
Devil's Peak is a novel that goes a beyond the usual thriller to study the problems of three individuals, and through them the deep problems of a beautiful but damaged country.
South Africa the rainbow nation, or South Africa, a country with rampant crime, AIDS, and interracial strife? Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaner, English, Cape Coloured, Asian.
Deon Meyer weaves the three strands of the story together with great skill, moving back and forth in time to explain events while keeping up the tension. The translator K.L.Seegers has left just enough Afrikaaner expressions in the narrative to give us real atmosphere while not making the mistake of overdoing it.
Devil's Peak is a fantastic read and shows crime fiction is an ideal medium for discussing serious problems. In this book the reader is informed about child abuse, the lives of prostitutes, the effect of affirmative action, the complex racial and linguistic mix in South Africa, drug gangs, and the devastating results of alcohol abuse. It is a sobering read.
I am not surprised Devil's Peak won the 2010 Martin Beck Prize awarded for the best foreign crime fiction translated into Swedish.
Deon Meyer, who was shortlisted for the International Dagger in 2010 for Thirteen Hours, is rapidly becoming one of my favourite authors, and I await his next book Trackers with great anticipation.