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by Wessel Ebersohn
Minotaur Books, January 2013
336 pages
ISBN: 0312655967

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The repression of the populace in Zimbabwe is the focus of this riveting novel by South African writer Wessel Ebersohn. Abigail Bukula, a South African lawyer, is pulled into a harrowing situation in Zimbabwe when a lawyer from Harare contacts her and pleads for her help. A cousin of hers, whom she did not know existed, has been arrested, along with several others who have opposed the dictatorial regime. A brutal secret government organization called the CIO has most likely taken them but denies any knowledge of their whereabouts.

Abigail is in her thirties, beautiful, black and rich since she is married to a wealthy newspaper owner. She suspects her husband of infidelity and also feels pressure from forces within her own government. Although initially reluctant to get involved, she eventually decides to go. Once in Zimbabwe, she meets the lawyer, Krisj Patel, who had called her. She realizes how poor and desperate he is, and how poor and desperate and starving all the people of this country are. She also meets the head of the CIO, a man named Jonas Chunga. Something instantly occurs between them and the attraction is palpable. Although the people who are trying to free Tony treat Chunga with great fear and loathing, Abigail fights with herself against this strong physical attraction to a man she knows she must hate.

A dear friend and colleague, Yudel Gordon, comes to her aid and together they must plot how to proceed. Although they know that the government is lying to them, the truth is not simple to extract as other members of the anti-government group are imprisoned and killed. Chunga is a complex character and Abigail has many pressures on her, including her marriage and the dawning realization of how her extended family is involved in the Zimbabwe events.

The oppressive regimes associated with Germany during WWII and also Russia during the Cold War are quite familiar to fiction readers. Tales of people of these eras trying to fight against secret government organizations that kidnap, torture and kill with impunity those who oppose them are the setting for many novels. These eras may intrigue us but we know they are in the past. The story Ebersohn tells of strongmen without limits and people who are “disappeared” into horrific prisons in modern-day Africa is likewise fascinating but, sadly, a contemporary story. Many of us are unfamiliar with the horrors of these regimes, so this book provides an eye-opening experience as well as a suspenseful one.

Anne Corey is a writer, poet, teacher and botanical artist in New York's Hudson Valley.

Reviewed by Anne Corey, January 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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