Finished: Blood Safari by Deon Meyer, 2007, 9780802119032, translated by K.L. Seegers.
Excellent. Damn good. This had a starred review and was one a two or three recent crime books based in South Africa. This was written in Afrikaans. I wonder if there is a big market for that language. SA is a big country but how many people get books in that language? I wonder that because Meyer makes it clear about the wide variety of languages that are spoken there.
Lemmer is a body guard for a private security company. He lives in a rural area of SA and travels to assignments. His newest client, Emma, thinks she is being targeted. Lemmer travels with Emma to the Kruger National Park area where she thinks a recent murder suspect is her long lost brother who disappeared in Kruger 20 years ago. Her brother had been a soldier assigned to stop poachers and went missing after a gun fight.
Lemmer is suspicious of Emma because she is rich and petite. Lemmer's Rule of Small Women is that they have learned to manipulate people because of their size. He starts falling for her anyway. Emma and Lemmer get flack from the local black cop investigating the murder case. They get stonewalled by conservationists and game parks people. They get ambushed and Emma has brain trauma during their escape and she lands in a coma.
Lemmer has been a bodyguard since he was 18 and joined the national police. He never had a client face a serious threat and attack before, and he is angry that the attempt almost succeeded. Lemmer's employer supports his goal to find those responsible and bankrolls his work.
A great novel with fantastic setting. The multiple cultures of SA are well explained and used in the plot. Multiple black tribes that compete against one another and the whites. White tribes of Afrikaans, English, Italian, etc. that also compete against each other and the blacks. The changing politics and economy of SA as blacks gain influence and power. Conservation versus development. The political and military policies of the past boomeranging back to effect the present. Whites with experience and skill who assume blacks are incompetent (and sometimes are).
Lemmer is a great character. He is still filled with rage from his shithole upbringing by a drunken father who beat him, and a slut mother who did nothing to protect him and disappeared when he was 13. Ten years working for the government until he was cashiered when more black bodyguards were needed. Two years as a karate instructor until his rage boiled over when he was pushed too far by four idiots and Lemmer went to prison on manslaughter for two years. He's an outsider who lives alone in a rural area and mostly works by himself.
Well done action scenes and good suspense. A neat intro to SA's geography and terrain.