Orford, Margie - 'Daddy's Girl'
"She tries to lift her right hand but it will not move. Neither will the left. The attempt hurts, as the plastic tie cuts tighter into her wrists. She keeps still. That saves you if you are in danger. Keeping still, thinking. Her daddy says so..."
A man in borrowed clothes steps out of the prison door and heads for home. He finds many things have changed in Cape Town, new housing estates, rich villas, a football stadium. But not where he grew up. That's the same flat land strewn with flimsy housing, pollution, and decay that it always was. Outside a shebeen the man meets his fellow gang members. It's time to make plans for a comeback.
At a ballet class a little girl realises that she has forgotten to give her mother the letter about the class finishing early today. She tries to ring her father from the phone box but her money runs out before she can leave a message. She will be brave she decides and will wait outside for mummy to fetch her. An hour isn't so long. But the car that comes isn't her mummy's. She is forced into it, grabbed, punched, and driven away. Meanwhile the little girl's father is standing at another crime scene. He is Captain Faizal Riedwann of the Gang Crime Unit, an increasingly unpopular unit in all quarters. The crime scene is the site of the killing of two young sisters, shot dead so that some gangster can earn his general's approval and move up the hierarchy.
Later, back at police headquarters, Riedwann is in a meeting which is interrupted by Special Director Ndlovu, a woman who appears to be out to get Riedwann. She asks him what he has done with his daughter this time. The little girl wasn't there when her mother went to collect her from ballet school and Riedwann, separated from his wife, has been known to take his daughter for unauthorised stays in the past. Despite Riedwann's boss vouching for his whereabouts it is clear that Ndlovu believes him to have abducted his daughter. Her ultimatum to Riedwann is to bring the child back to her mother immediately.
Beside himself with anxiety, Riedwann visits Dr Clare Hart, journalist and campaigner, whose TV programme "Missing" explores the frightening glut of child abductions and abuse. She tracks down the abducted children, alive or dead; she must help him find his daughter Yasmin. The police won't look for her, they say that he, Riedwann, has her. But he doesn't.
DADDY'S GIRL is the third in Margie Orford's crime series featuring investigative journalist Dr Clare Hart. It's fast-paced with a high emotional charge - which is just as well - because the callous and casual violence imposed upon the book's young victims would spell out despair were it not for the adrenaline surge of emotion and intrigue which carries one through the pages. Sadly, Orford knows her subject. A journalist and film-director as well as author, she also does Advocacy work for Rape Crisis South Africa and lives in Cape Town where DADDY'S GIRL is set. So this book portrays the devastating kill rate not of a single crazed murderer but of a damaged and gang-ridden society where the rich get richer and the poor stay at the bottom of the heap unless they use the fast lane of corruption and crime. My only quibble would be the introduction now and then of an almost sentimental note in the portrayal of Riedwann's young abducted daughter, but in a dark thriller which interlaces despair and hope such touches are allowable I think. Emotional, pacey, and well-constructed - with an accurate and particular setting - I would recommend DADDY'S GIRL to readers who are looking for a harsher, contemporary back-drop to their crime fiction. A driven, determined, female protagonist working alongside a fiery policeman co-investigator, together with plenty of tension-busting emotion, makes a recipe for a thrilling read.
Lynn Harvey, England
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.