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by Deon Meyer
Little, Brown, August 2005
384 pages
ISBN: 0316000124

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Former cop Zatopek van Heerden looks like he's reached rock-bottom. And he's not overjoyed to be roused from his self-pity by lawyer Hope Beneke, who wants him to do some investigating on behalf of a client.

Wilna van As has lived with antiques dealer Jan Smit for 11 years. But he's found dead in their house in grim circumstances -- he's been burned with a blowtorch and then shot once in the back of the head. The contents of his safe are missing, and unless Zet, as he's known, can track down the will, Wilna will get nothing.

Oh, and to add some spice to the unwanted task, Zet has just seven days to get results. And it's not going to be easy when he discovers that Smit wasn't all he seemed and that his life only appeared to start in 1983.

Zet, too, isn't all he seems. He's the son of a miner and an artist, named after the great Czech runner Emil Zatopek. The book is told more or less through Zet's eyes, both first and third person, which does take a little bit of getting used to. And as the book unfolds, so does Zet's story. And no, telling you anything else would give away too much of the plot.

DEAD AT DAYBREAK is set in post-apartheid South Africa and the backdrop of a nation trying to rebuild itself and to cope with its turbulent past is absolutely engrossing. It's been translated from Afrikaans, and is the third of Deon Meyer's books to be available in the UK and the US as well as HEART OF THE HUNTER and DEAD BEFORE DYING.

If you've read the highly-acclaimed HEART OF THE HUNTER, you'll be glad to hear there's a cameo role in DEAD AT DAYBREAK for its hero Tiny Mpayipheli

I recommend DEAD AT DAYBREAK highly. It's a slow burner, and in many ways it's seemingly a variation on the old theme of the bad-boy PI surrounded by beautiful women. But Meyer is an accomplished writer who ensures things aren't quite as simple as that.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, August 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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