A work of art from SA’s great crime writer
Icarus by Deon Meyer Hodder & Stoughton 400 pages R335 (hardback) and R169 (paperback) at takealot.com
It’s taken South African author Deon Meyer 10 previous novels, and as many years, to rightfully earn his place beside other great, global, contemporary crime writers. There’s no doubt that Captain Benny Griessel of the SA Police Service now stands shoulder to shoulder with Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus or James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux.
Icarus, Meyer’s latest unputdownable novel, the fifth featuring the cynical and almost burntout lead detective in South Africa’s priority crimes unit, sees Griessel 602 days dry.
That’s until the domestic tragedy of a fellow officer pushes him over the edge once again. He abandons his girlfriend, Alexa, also a recovering alcoholic, and goes to ground in a hotel.
It’s not a good time to be drinking. The murdered body of a young celebrity entrepreneur, Ernst Richter, has just been discovered on a beach north of Cape Town.
There’s a media frenzy when Richter turns out to be the owner of a notorious local website, Alibi, which provides alibis, false documents and phone calls so that people can cheat on their partners.
The list of clients who have used Alibi include celebrities, men of the cloth, politicians, bankers, family men and women. Any one of them has sufficient motive to want the keeper of their secrets, Richter, silenced.
Griessel’s colleague, the ever-so-cool Vaughn Cupido, with the smartest takkies in town, is put in charge of the case under the watchful eye of Major Mbali Kaleni, who is slow, honest, thorough, and is painfully putting herself through “Prof Tim’s” banting diet. She insists Griessel also become part of the investigation team.
As the case begins to gather momentum, a young Cape winemaker from Stellenbosch seeks the help of a well-known female lawyer. He has a complicated, heart-rending story to tell that involves not only his family, but South Africa’s wine industry. But how can his tale possibly throw light on the murder?
Expect crackling dialogue (you’ll laugh out loud at times), a superbly crafted plot, totally credible characters and a perceptive take on contemporary South Africa that is shafted with humour and honesty.
One of Meyer’s many gifts as a writer is his powerful sense of place. Just as Louisiana is a central character in the great crime novels of James Lee Burke, so Cape Town and its environs are the crucial context for Griessel and his colleagues. Meyer brings South Africa richly and specifically to life. This is certainly his best book to date.