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by Deon Meyer and K L Seegers, trans
Hodder & Stoughton, September 2012
352 pages
16.99 GBP
ISBN: 1444723707

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Benny Griessel is an alcoholic who's been dry for 230 days, a bass player, and a Detective Captain in the Hawks - the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations in South Africa. The police have been receiving emails from someone claiming that they are implicated in a cover-up in the murder of lawyer Hanneke Sloet, and threatening to shoot a policeman every day until the murderer is charged. Griessel gets the case, and under extreme pressure needs to both re-investigate the Sloet murder and find the connection to the gunman. There seem to be few leads. Sloet is a financial lawyer and there is no trace of the 'communist' that the gunman claims is responsible for her death, or connection to the police. The painstaking work of Griessel and his colleagues steadily bears fruit but the gunman steps up his attacks and speed is crucial.

7 DAYS sustains dramatic tension throughout, and the over-used phrase ‘difficult to put down' does really apply in this case. The pace of discovery of crucial details is nicely judged so that revelations are progressive, and the answers are not complete until the final chapters. Griessel barely sleeps, under pressure not only from the ongoing threat but his own feelings of inadequacy and past lapses. As if the case was not bad enough, Griessel has also to manage problems with his children from his failed marriage, and with Alexa Barnard, a singer whom he admires but who also has problems with alcohol. In his team are others also fighting to redeem themselves, including Mbali, who embarrassed the police on her secondment to Holland, and Fanie Fick, who bungled a previous murder case. These and others make substantial contributions to solving the case, so that progress is a team effort, so much more convincing than having the hero crack the case unaided.

The book has several other features of interest. It was originally published in Afrikaans; the English translation by KL Seegers is excellent, leaving something of the flavour of a country where English, Afrikaans and Xhosa are all widely spoken. An insight is provided into the structure of the South African police, the strengths and weaknesses of that organisation when under stress, and the financial opportunities, legitimate and otherwise, arising from 'Black Economic Empowerment' transactions.

Benny Griessel and some of his team have featured in other Deon Meyer books published to critical acclaim, unsurprising if they are as good as 7 DAYS. The depth of the story quickly engages interest and holds it to the end, and a white South African policeman turns out to be a surprisingly sympathetic character.

§ Chris Roberts is a retired manager of shopping centres in Hong Kong, and now lives in Bristol, primarily reading.

Reviewed by Chris Roberts, August 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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