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by Tim Krabbe
Bloomsbury, July 2005
192 pages
ISBN: 0747576734

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Tim Krabbe is a prolific Dutch author whose translated work is becoming popular in English. To my mind at least, it is paradoxical that Sam Garrett, the translator of DELAY won an award for his translation of Krabbe's novel about cycling , THE RIDER, yet I was unable to find any reference to Krabbe winning any awards for his books.

Jacques Bekker touches down in Sydney with the intention of continuing his journey on Air India to Singapore, then home to Holland, where he is a television quizmaster as well as a writer. He succumbs to the temptation of looking in the telephone directory to see if his first love, Monique, whom he has not seen for 30 years, is listed. She is, and the address of her home in Darling Point is given.

When Jacques' flight is delayed, he goes to Darling Point and finds the 50 year-old about to try to escape the law. She had founded a successful fashion empire but, not content with the millions she made from that, entered into a partnership, both business and emotional, with a financial double dealer who helps her cheat employees and others. Their criminal profits are deposited in a Swiss bank account which Monique intends tapping once she is safe, but in the meantime she must disguise herself and flee.

Jacques misses his flight as a result of Monique's manipulations. He is persuaded to help in the fashion guru's escape across Australia. It does not take long before his disappearance is linked with hers and the two are jointly sought.

In the meantime, the author tells the story of the meeting of the then 17-year-old Jacques with the 20-year-old Monique. As the reader discovers the true story of that meeting, so, too, does Jacques. He is disillusioned to discover her amorality, yet finds himself unable to leave her.

This is a very dark tale. The story is told, for the most part, from the point of view of Jacques so that it is very difficult to understand why Monique is as she is and what motivated her to behave as she did in their youth let alone in her adulthood. One could say the narrative is unlikely but then so is a large percentage of fiction.

It is interesting to see Australia as a foreigner would see it, both its people and its landscapes, yet the people seem a little distorted, different from the Australians of real life. The translation made the book very readable but, perhaps because of its brevity, I felt it lacked conviction with the evil of its female character insufficiently justified.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, September 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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