Sunday, April 11, 2010


I read Deon Meyer's Blood Safari set in South Africa as my second African novel for Dorte's 2010 Global Challenge.

Sometimes when I read a book by an author I have not read before I make an immediate connection. This might be because of having a similar sense of humour as with Andrea Camilleri and Hakan Nesser, or on a more personal level because of their sympathetic treatment of characters with Down's syndrome, as with Jo Nesbo and Colin Cotterill. I felt that immediate connection with Deon Meyer for a different reason, and will explain later.

Deon Meyer writes in Afrikaans, and Blood Safari was translated into English by K.L.Seegers so well that I would not have known it was translated crime fiction.

Emma le Roux, a rich beautiful petite career woman, watches a TV news flash about 'a shooting incident at Khokovela near the Kruger National Park in which a traditional healer and three local men have died. The remains of fourteen protected and endangered vultures were found at the scene.'

The police are looking for Jacobus de Villiers, who bears a strong resemblance to Emma's brother who disappeared over twenty years ago.
She phones the police station at Hoedspruit and enquires whether this Jacobus de Villiers could be he brother Jacobus le Roux. She is told it cannot be so, but later receives a mysterious phone call with a truncated message "Jacobus says you must...."

Then she is attacked in her Cape Town home by three men in balaclavas. Emma's reaction is to employ Body Armour, a personal executive security firm run by Jeanette Louw, a bottle-blonde lesbian in her fifties with a liking for Gauloise cigarettes, and seducing recently divorced, hurting, heterosexual women.
Jeanette allocates Lemmer, a taciturn professional bodyguard, a man who has created a wall between himself and his clients, to the task of guarding Emma. They fly north to the Kruger National Park to find Jacobus de Villiers, or le Roux, where they become involved in the dangerous conflicts between conservationists and tribal peoples, as well as those other conflicts from the past history of this very troubled land.

This is a brilliant exciting tale, full of interesting back stories about the characters, and explanations about conservation problems. The strained relationships between black and white, and between English and Afrikaner are explored.
It is a thriller packed full of information, but it is so well done that when you are lectured about vultures or tribal land rights you almost don't notice. It may be perhaps fifty pages too long but that could be said about much modern crime fiction.

The world is becoming so similar where ever you are:

The Ford dealership was still there with the same name. New owners. The whole of Seapoint was full of new people. The Italians had gone, and the Greeks. Of the Jews, only the women were still there, old ladies walking along the seafront alone or in groups waiting for their children to come to visit them.
There were Nigerians and Somalis, Russians and Romanians, Bosnians, Chinese, Iraqis. New tribes that I could not be a part of.

Deon Meyer's opinion of parts of his own tribe are not always complimentary, and he describes South Africa's internal security problems succinctly.

Lemmer's Law of Rich Afrikaners: If a Rich Afrikaner can show off, he will.
The Rich Afrikaner does not use bodyguards, only home security-high fences, expansive alarms, panic buttons, and neighbourhood security companies with armed response.

My own personal liking for the character of Lemmer was based on several factors including:

Lemmer's Law of Small Women: Never trust them. Not professionally, nor personally.

A bit harsh, but Lemmer is obviously bitter about his past experiences. This rule might have been useful some forty years ago.
My compatibility with Lemmer was cemented by this passage:

Sexual Astrology: Sensual Compatability.
I pulled out the last book and opened it. What was Emma's star sign? She had said she shared a birthday with the old South Africa: 6 April.
Another Aries, just like me. [and me and Mrs Crime Scraps]

I looked in the index and found the reference. Aries and Aries. An excellent match, with an intense sexual attraction and mutual erotic satisfaction............

I will be looking out for more exciting thrillers by Deon Meyer, and hopefully he will bring back the character of Lemmer in a future book.


Blogger Bernadette said...

I know what you mean about making an immediate connection with an author - I haven't read this book yet but have thoroughly enjoyed the two of Meyer's that I have read (Devil's Peak and Dead at Daybreak). I too will be reading more by him.

4:24 AM  

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