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by Deon Meyer
Hodder & Stoughton, September 2011
488 pages
12.99 GBP
ISBN: 1444723669

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

When Janina Metz, Director of the Presidential Intelligence Agency of South Africa, learns that they are likely to be subsumed by the larger agencies, she knows that if she is to keep her job she has to come up with some sort of spectacular intelligence coup.

A PIA agent who was previously infiltrated into a radical Islamic group comes in from the cold, with information that the group is shortly to hijack a shipment of diamonds smuggled from Zimbabwe, possibly to buy weapons for a terrorist attack in Capetown. Believing this to be true, Metz decides that preventing this threat will be the coup the PIA needs to retain its independent status. The first part of TRACKERS details the subsequent high level discussions on how to proceed, detailed research into the backgrounds of the members of the group and the use of listening devices to track their movements. A very detailed and convincing picture of a secret government organization emerges is not always easy to follow without paying close attention. An apparently minor character is also introduced: Milla Strachan, a downtrodden woman who, having made a courageous decision to leave her abusive husband and unspeakably awful son, finds employment with the PIA without knowing exactly what she is getting into.

The second part of the book takes off in what appears to be a completely different direction, focussing on the smuggling of rhinos out of Zimbabwe into South Africa, and seems to bear little or no relation to what went on in part one. Eventually, however, a connection is established when characters associated with the conspiracy being investigated in the first part appears. It's the role of Lemmer, a bodyguard who has appeared in one of Meyer's previous books, to ensure that the rhinos reach the wealthy farmer who is paying him to procure them. Another character is introduced the mysterious 'Flea' Van Jaarsveld. This section raises even more questions, all of which are left temporarily unanswered as Part Three reverts to the main PIA story. One of the effects of this apparent digression is to slow the action down to some extent. However, this, in its turn, allows for the development of the characters of Lemmer and Flea.

Part Three takes up once again the activities of the PIA but this time with intervention from the CIA. This depiction of the intelligence services continues to be convincing as they try to convert their pieces of information into a coherent whole. They are unaware almost to the very end of precisely what they are dealing with. Interwoven with this is the love affair between the admirable Milla Strachan and Lukas Becker whom she meets at a dancing class. She is very attracted to him and he to her but gradually the relationship leads her into danger. She is sympathetic character and love story is both interesting and touchingly portrayed. The final part of the book, which could easily be a separate novella, ties up a few loose ends and provides the author with an opportunity to bring back PI Mat Joubert, a character from a previous novel.

Meyer's dialogue, particularly in the PIA scenes, is always believable and he uses it to good effect in fleshing out the characters in his story. He is always attempting to show rather than to tell. The social and political sides of life in Capetown are also well brought out, with just a hint of the racial awareness that continues to exist in certain areas.

Arnold Taylor is a retired Examinations Board Officer, amateur writer and even more amateur bridge player.

Reviewed by Arnold Taylor, August 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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