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Meyer, Deon - 'Cobra' (translated by K L Seegers)
Hardback: 352 pages (July 2014) Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton ISBN: 1444723758

Two men from a private security company in the Cape are found dead in a guest house on a vineyard in Franschoek, just outside Cape Town. Another body is found in the grounds. A fourth man is missing. The only clue are the cartridges found at the scene engraved with the image of a spitting cobra. The missing man is Paul Anthony Morris, a British citizen who booked in saying he needed refuge and protection.

Veteran cop Benny Griessel is first on the scene. They discover that Morris's passport is a forgery and that the British authorities do not seem keen to co-operate in the investigation. Griessel's team believe he is David Patrick Adair, Professor in Computer Science at Cambridge University, responsible for the Adair algorithm which has become the blueprint for tracking terrorists in the international banking system.

His latest project is the Adair protocol which has the capacity to trace dubious financial transactions worth billions of dollars per annum. Tracing the money would have huge impact on containing and prosecuting organised crime. But banks, supported by governments would stand to lose billions.

In Cape Town, Tyrone Kleinbooi, a professional pickpocket is using his skills to fund his sister's university studies. When he steals a wallet containing an encrypted memory card, the suspense ramps up and the body count mounts.

State Security, who have been bugging the offices and phones of the investigation team, announce that they are taking over the investigation. Benny and his team, appalled at seeing justice corrupted in the name of state security, decide to work undercover putting their jobs and lives on the line.

The author has published in English nine novels of which four, (including this one) have the same protagonist Benny Griessel, his other novels have other protagonists and in the other book I did a review for, HEART OF THE HUNTER, the protagonist was Thobela Mpayipheli.

This extremely unusual police procedural is written by South Africa's most successful thriller writer and he is published all over the world. The fifty-five-year-old Afrikaner writes in his mother tongue and has been translated into twenty-five languages. His English translator is K L Seegers. Deon Meyer is a passionate and patriotic South African and uses his novels to present a portrait of post-apartheid South Africa. His books have won numerous awards both in South Africa and across Europe.

The plot is very fast moving and the characters are well crafted, rich and memorable and drawn with rare style and perception. The book was a real page turner. The detailed descriptions of South Africa were very evocative of my own experience of Cape Town of some years ago. The writer handles issues of racism and the class structure without any comment. The tension was almost unbearable until the last gripping few pages. Even so there is a wry humour to the presentation of the story, particularly in respect of Benny Griessel's unusual romantic life, that gives you a hunger to read all of his other books.

Very strongly recommended.

Terry Halligan, England
December 2014

More crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 4/12/2014 19:35