Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Heard: "Devil's Peak" by Deon Meyer

Heard: Devil's Peak by Deon Meyer, 2007, download form Wisconsin Digital Library.

I think Meyer writes in Afrikaans. I wonder if he does his own translations.

I really enjoyed Meyer's books with the character Lemmer. This book features Cape Town copper Benny Griessel and the plot is a three way story among Benny, Thobela, and Christine.

Griessel is a drunk. Griessel's part of the novel begins on Benny's living room couch with a massive hangover, an empty bottle of Jack Daniels, and a black eye on his wife.

Griessel turned into a drunk a few years ago. But, now, after other failed attempts at sobriety his wife has had enough. He hit her the previous night and has been getting progressively worse with nightly blackouts. She has packed a bag for Benny and told him to get out. He can see the kids on Sunday - if he is sober - and if he stays sober for six months she will consider a reconciliation.

Meanwhile, Thobela The Bad Guy, is having an even worse time. Thobela has been raising his young son since Thobela's wife passed away. He moved them out of Cape Town to a farm. Driving his pick-up truck back from a off-road motorcycle trip Thobela and his son stop at a gas station. Thobela exits the truck for gas when a couple robbers run out of the shop, shoot up the pick-up, and kill Thobela's son.

Thobela is left mourning for both his wife and young son when the two killers escape police custody. Thobela learns that the cops are not actively hunting for the killers.He bribes a detective for the case file and starts hunting for the killers who likely fled to Cape Town. Along the way Thobela hears of a child rapist and murderer (one of those scumbags who rape an infant in the belief that doing so will cure AIDS) who has gotten away with the crime. Thobela gets an Assegai spear and murders the rapist. Thobela decides he will be the one to revenge crimes against children and attacks other child abusers and killers who he reads about in the newspapers.

Things stay tough for Benny. He is having a tough time going sober and withdrawal puts him in the hospital. But, Benny has strong support from his commanding officer and starts to see a bit more clear headed. He even gets assigned to command the new task force on the Assegai murders. 

Christine enters the picture early on in the novel as she is talking to a priest in a rural town. Christine's dialogue with the priest is a confession of sorts and her retelling of the past week's events involving Benny and Thebola. Over the course of the novel we learn not to trust too much of what Christine says about her background and what happened.

Anyhoo. Benny and company are chasing Thebola. Thebola becomes something of a fold hero. Christine is a high cost prostitute and takes up with a Colombian cocaine king. All three come together when Thebola kills the Colombian after Christine accuses him of kidnapping her daughter and the arrest makes the newspapers.

Neat stuff. Meyer and Roger Smith's crime novels both give a neat look at life in Cape Town. Meyer writes about the white Afrikaaners and Smith will often cover both the wealthy whites and dirt-poor blacks and coloreds on the Cape Flats. You learn a lot about how race is handled there. For instance, "colored" is not the pejorative it is in the United States. Colored in S.A. means biracial. Meyer often covers the tension of changing politics as the whites who ran everything in the country for so long will sometimes wonder at the experience and capabilities of black colleagues.

1. The narrator speaks the Afrikaans dialogue in that accent and I thought it sounded great. But, his American accent sounded like the Monty Python parodies of American accents. With that in mind I wonder how accurate the other accents are.
2. More "broken man's redemption" bullshit. Benny is going through less than two weeks of sobriety and he falls off the wagon on day 10. Benny thinks he is trying to redeem himself with work and reconnecting with the children he ignored in a drunken haze the last few years. He'll be going through that booze struggle every day. Making up for his years of booze enhanced neglect will take years.
3. Part of Benny's new sobriety is a reappreciation of pop music. Benny used to play bass in a band and he and his son appreciate a strong bass and drum beat. Meyer names several singers and musicians but I did not try to look them up.
4. Meyer's website has neat-o location photos for some of his novels.

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