By Arnout Nuijt
The gentleman who had entered the Mozambican hotel elevator on the same floor as I did must have been a good observer. He said, while nodding his head towards the book I was holding: I see you are reading Deon Meyer. Indeed, I replied, it’s my first one and I find it pretty good. We chatted for a few seconds and he advised me to read Blood Safari. It’s set around here, you know, he said, in a slight South African accent and with a meaningful smile before he disappeared. On my way back from Mozambique, at Johannesburg airport, I picked up Deon Meyer’s Blood Safari and Heart of the Hunter. They were other fine reads and yes, Blood Safari’s plot is highly connected to a tragic (and historical) incident on the Mozambique border. Which one is for you to find out.
Deon Meyer writes great thriller/action/crime stories set in post-apartheid South Africa, mainly in Cape Town. His realistic characters are fading police detectives, bodyguards or former hit men, each with his own problem. Matt Joubert and Benny Griessel (an alcoholic on the verge of collapse) are handicapped by being white Afrikaners and old, apartheid-era South African Police hands, which bars them from making any career in the new post-apartheid SAPS. Tormented Thobela is haunted by his previous life as a KGB hit man, for which there is no employment anymore. Lemmer is a bodyguard with an anger management problem, who tries to build up a new life in a small town in the Karoo semi-desert.
If you know South Africa and if you know a bit or two about its recent history, you will no doubt highly appreciate these novels. If you don’t know the country, then these are excellent and very entertaining books to read. On the way you will pick up interesting information about the new South Africa.
The plots draw you in almost immediately and the story lines are carefully interwoven. Some characters live through new adventures in later books and become recurring focal points. In fact you will long for more, more stories about Lemmer and Thobela, the editor’s favourites. Blood Safari and Heart of the Hunter are among Mr Meyer’s best. These stories could be turned nicely in gripping road movies. In fact all novels would be highly filmable.
The elaborate plots come with surprising denouements. The books are also well researched and are insightful in South African crime and crime fighting. Several elite intelligence and anti-crime agencies appear in the novels. Some books, for instance Blood Safari and Trackers, even contain some food for conspiracy theorists to chew on, but to an acceptable level.
Mr Meyer writes in Afrikaans and the English versions of his work have been well translated by a South African. The books have the subtleties of South African English, which is appropriate and still mix in some Afrikaans words.
Interested to try them out? As a courtesy to our readers we have added a Deon Meyer page to the Atlantico Store, so you can buy as many books as you like.