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by Deon Meyer
Hodder & Stoughton, May 2007
416 pages
14.99 GBP
ISBN: 0340822651

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

If you've read any of the earlier books by South African writer Deon Meyer, you'll know that he doesn't have the same lead characters, but instead uses recurring faces from the books. In DEVIL'S PEAK former mercenary Thobela 'Tiny' Mpayipheli and Detective Inspector Benny Griessel step forward for their turn in the spotlight.

Tiny is trying to put his former life behind him now he has a young son the adopted child of a former lover to look after. But his peaceful new existence is shattered when the youngster, Pakamile, is killed during a raid on a petrol station. The two men responsible are arrested, but bribe their way out of prison. Tiny has revenge on his mind.

Benny, meanwhile, is drinking himself out of a job and his marriage. His wife Anna throws him out and gives him an ultimatum if he's dry for six months, he can come home. With the help of his boss, Matt Joubert (the hero of the previous book), Benny leads the enquiry into tracking down whoever is killing off child killers and abusers. But then it suddenly gets horribly personal for Benny.

DEVIL'S PEAK isn't an easy book to summarise briefly, especially without giving too much away. But it's intricately-written and minutely-plotted and KL Seegers' translation makes a fine job of keeping the cadences of the Afrikaans-speaking cops.

Meyer's books are outstanding when it comes to characterisation, and Benny is one of his finest creations. He's a dogged cop, somewhat bemused by what's happening around him in the new and rapidly-changing South Africa. Meyer makes him a sympathetic character, despite his all-too-believable drink problem and the way he's treated his wife and children.

The book's one weak link is that of Christine, the prostitute, whose daughter goes missing and is assumed to have been kidnapped by one of her mother's clients, a Colombian drugs baron. The first section where she tells her story to a priest drags somewhat and this third plot strand, alongside Tiny and Benny, is the least satisfying. The book would have worked perfectly well as a double-header, I suspect.

Meyer's novels are absolutely compelling reading, despite the bleak landscape they inevitably portray. Post-apartheid South Africa is a country still beset with problems, including child rape and corruption. DEVIL'S PEAK isn't a comfortable read, but it's a book that should not be missed.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, May 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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