Set in modern South Africa, this book is a collection of different stories which the author crafts into one very different novel. Each story gives a new perspective on the country and its many challenges, wound around a strong thriller like core. However, it does not seem that way until you get to the end, so the structure may put some readers off. Because of the quality of the writing, and the enthralling stories on offer, it was a real page turner for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Characters? Plenty! There’s the downtrodden suburban housewife who suddenly rebels; the hard nosed bodyguard who accepts the job of helping to smuggle a rhinoceros, to save it from slaughter; the local criminal gang, flexing its muscles, every way it can; an Al Qaeda group planning something big; a government spy agency fighting the country’s enemies and its own war for survival inside the bureaucracy; and the former policeman freshly minted as a private detective. The book is full of good characters. Some are from the author’s earlier books, but you do not need to have read them first. (But you should read them!)
Meyer’s portrait of South Africa comes across as authentic. As I have commented previously, he paints it – warts and all – with a clear eye for detail, atmosphere, and love of the place. He knows it is not perfect, but it is his. The beauty, the tragedy, the violence, and the modern history of the country are sympathetically, but realistically, packaged. In short, the setting is a fine pillar of the novel.
The only caveat on offer, is that if you have not read a Deon Meyer book before, do not start here. The structure is so unique, that it would be a shame to put you off, just because of that. He is an excellent writer, and this book is a good reflection of his ability. However, I fear the structure limits the impact, and that’s why I would not recommend it above all his other material I have read. It is good. It is also different – too different for some tastes.