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This was my first Deon Meyer, downloaded based on the review of a reader I follow. At first, I thought this was going to be just another police procedural. It turned out to be much more than I expected. The characters are great and the plot really takes off. With twists I never saw coming but which made total sense once revealed. Immediately downloaded the second book in the series. (Simon Vance, as always, is excellent.)
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
What I appreciate about Deon Meyer's books is the realistic and believable context that he captures in words and uses as a stage for his characters to act out their lives. He has done miticilous research on the way the South African Police Service functions and has tapped into the main concerns, fears and believes that are occupying the South African psyche at the time his books are published. All his books becomes realistic sketches of the South African landscape at the time of writing.
This is the first of six books about detective Benny Griesel, an alcoholic whose fight is not only against the ever engulfing crime commited on the Western Cape landscape, but also with the bottle. Seen from this angle he is a credible South African Sherlock Holmes. Yet, Benny Griesel has much more baggage that Holmes. Scarcly a gentlemen, his marriage is "on the rocks," his relationships are a mess, he trusts his instincts, and is guided by a dubious moral and ethical compass. To my mind, this is what makes the rogue detective effective and steadfast.
No wonder that "Devil's Peak" was awarded the Martin Beck Award by the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers in 2010, the Readers’ Award from Critiques Libres for Best Crime Novel or Thriller in 2010, France, and the ATKV Afrikaans Prose Prize for 2004, South Africa.
Meyer is a master of characterisation, misdirection and using narrative time to keep you guessing. In this novel, Benny Griesel is on the "spoor" of a serial killer. This book must be read (or listened to) against the national narrative of reconciliation that was predominant in South Africa in 2002-2003. In an ingenious way Meyer contributes to the debate by letting an ex-MK veteran, Thobela "Tiny" Mpayipheli, cross paths with a police member form the old South African Police Force, Benny Griesel. Not one of them can claim that he has the moral high ground. Reconciliation seems to happen not only when you see the good in each other, but when you accept the other with his or her flaws. (So by the way, in his novel "Heart of the Hunter" you can follow Thobela Mpayipheli's further.)
I think it is important to mention that "Devil's Peak" and all the other books of Deon Meyer are translated from Afrikaans. I have listened and read most of his books in Afrikaans and found listening to him in English an adjustment. The texture of Cape Afrikaans that shines through in his books are lost in translation and the English choice of words is sometimes surprising, but this a fairly decent translation and captures the spirit of the Afrikaans novel very well.
What about the narration? Well, this is where I must take my hat of for Simon Vance. He gives a solid performance. His voice brings the characters to life (though I have to deal with Nic de Jager's Afrikaans narration also at the back of my head, having listened to the other Benny Griesel novels in Afrikaans.) Vance has tried his level best to master the few Afrikaans phrases and words that has been left untranslated in the English version (but most of the times with explanation). He has done much better than most people who have never heard Afrikaans. Unfortunately he butchers some words seriously, especially one or two place names. Fortunately, his exceptional narration, insight and voice control extinguishes these mispronounciations. Most listeners will not even notice it.
I highly recommend this book to listeners who likes a thrillers, a good detective story and wants to know something of South Africa. I invite you, meet Benny Griesel, one of the best detectives in the South African Police Service, a South African Sherlock Holmes (who had nothing to do with the alleged FIFA bribe to host the Football World Cup in our country).
7 of 7 people found this review helpful