Meyer, Deon - 'Trackers' (translated by K L Seegers)
Deon Meyer just goes from strength to strength. I think this book may be the best thriller I've ever read. His great, loose set of novels about modern South Africa are a perfect mix of thrills, entertainment, emotional grip, and socio-political analysis.
In previous books, Meyer has used the transformation of the police force from a hierarchical, all-white body into a multi-cultural, politically correct organisation, to confront different perspectives and assumptions people make about modern South Africa (for example its widely reported high crime rate). In other novels, he's used a "PI" style device to similar effect, highlighting for example the gated communities in which people with money live set apart from most of the population (perpetuating the white/black divide) and the wild-animal/safari business with its associated tensions between preservation of natural resources and recreational sports such as hunting.
In TRACKERS, superbly translated from the Afrikaans as ever by K L Seegers, Meyer combines these elements in a novel of several distinct sections. Each section concerns an apparently different story, linked by various interpretations of "tracking" from ancient to modern. We as readers know these stories are going to be related, but not how - and this is part of the constant tension of this marvellous novel. I won't reveal the plot here as I don't want to spoil anyone's enjoyment of the book and its various shocks of discovery, but part of it involves a government surveillance unit, with a moving story about a 40-something housewife desperate for liberation from her ghastly husband and son. Other parts re-introduce us to previous characters (Lemmer from BLOOD SAFARI and Matt Joubert from several previous novels, now retired from the police force and starting a new job in security) - but not having read earlier books does not detract from one's enjoyment of this one, which has the reader desperate to know the outcomes of the various stories, and what happens to the characters.
In the end, the denouement is based on a slightly dated punchline - through no fault of the author, but a victim of the delays in the publication process. Even so, it packs a wallop, not in itself but in the outcome for some of the characters. Just enough details are tied up to provide a satisfactory finale, yet there are sufficient loose ends to make the reader extremely keen to read Deon Meyer's next book (though for sure it will not be a linear sequel to this one - this author is too clever for that). And that, of course, is the tracker's lot - not to know the full story even if the trail being followed does lead to what is being sought in the narrow sense.
Maxine Clarke, England
More crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.