DEVIL'S PEAK
Deon Meyer

 


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Translated from the Afrikaans by K. L. Seegers
Hodder and Stoughton, Mar 2008
Reviewed by Sunnie Gill

What makes a book special for you? For me itís when the characters and the story stays with you after youíve closed the book. All too often once the book is finished, the details begin to fade almost immediately. Not so with DEVILíS PEAK by Deon Meyer.

DEVILíS PEAK begins with a prostitute telling her story to a clergyman. On her lap is a shoe box. Whatís in the box?

Inspector Benny Giessel has just been thrown out of the house by his wife. She has given him an ultimatum. Choose either the booze or his family. He has six months to get sober and stay that way or he wonít see his kids again. Benny is a veteran of the South African police. He is one of the very few left from the days of apartheid. In a force where the majority are young and inexperienced, a wise Superintendant realises the the value of a talented and experienced detective. With the support of his boss, Benny begins the slow, painful process of getting sober and staying that way.

Someone is killing people with an Assegai (tribal spear). Many on the police force arenít that bothered because the victims are child killers. Benny is assigned to lead the investigation. Realising this may well be his last chance to save his career as well as his marriage, Benny puts everything into finding out the identity of the killer.

The alcoholic detective is something of a staple in crime fiction, to the extent that it frequently becomes a clichť. Not so Benny. Meyer writes about Bennyís struggle, self-recrimination and the realisation of the full impact of his drinking on his life, his family and his colleagues with a great deal of sensitivity. We feel Bennyís pain, guilt and despair as he struggles through ďone day at a time.Ē

DEVILíS PEAK was written in Afrikaans and translated by K.L. Seegers. Not only is the translation spot on, but Seegers has retained enough of the Afrikaans slang and dialect for the reader to easily imagine an Afrikaans accent.

The sense of place and culture are also very strong. There is no way this book could be set anywhere but South Africa. DEVILíS PEAK is not only well written with a nicely honed plot, but the author has also seamlessly incorporated a history lesson, a clear idea of diverse cultures and characters you wonít forget in a hurry. These all combine to make DEVILíS PEAK a memorable read on many levels.

The second week of 2009 isnít over yet and already I feel Iíve read one of my top books for 2009.

Jan 2008

 

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