Calum MacLeod is a reporter for the Inverness Courier and had been writing for SHOTS since its early days. In 2009 the Highland and Islands Media Awards' judging panel awarded him “Highly Commended Feature Writer of the Year”.
Deon Meyer’s Benny Griessel would find much to compare with his counterparts in Europe, America, Australia, in fact any fictional territory where cops drink too much, separate from wives who cannot stand being in second place to their husband’s job, fear estrangement from their children and have a distrustful relationship with their bosses.
Sure Griessel, a veteran cop dealing with the new political realities of the post-apartheid South Africa, is comprised of some familiar ingredients, but as any good chef will tell you, it is how you use those ingredients that count.
In Meyer’s hands we are in cordon bleu company, maybe not quite deserving of the Michelin stars of crime writing on this effort, but certainly serving up a dish that is tasty, satisfying and will linger pleasantly in the memory.
With Thirteen Hours, Meyer also offers a value for money two for one package being both a thriller and a mystery if one accepts the definition that in a mystery you want to know what happened and in a thriller you want to know what happens next.
The thriller element, and the title’s ever popular ticking clock theme (certainly not something that did Keifer Sutherland any harm), involves a race between Griessel and his good cops and the bad guys and some very bad cops to find a missing American backpacker running from her best friend’s killers over the slopes and through the suburbs of Capetown.
The reason she is being pursued is not revealed until the end, but hardly matters, being revealed as a classic McGuffin (and not the continent shattering conspiracy hinted at on the back of my proof copy). What does matter are the close calls, the relentless ruthless pursuers and the quiet determination of Griessel, his own daughter thousands of miles away in London, to fulfil his promise to the fugitive girl’s father to bring her safely home.
Definitely one to keep the “24” fans happy, even if the resolution is slightly marred by relying too much on conveniently eavesdropping an indiscreet phone call.
Griessel’s other case sees his team investigating the killing of an oversexed record producer. His faded ex-pop star missus is too sozzled to have pulled the trigger, so Griesel’s team must look elsewhere for suspects – and find plenty.
This plot strands offers an insight into the Afrikaans music industry, but more interesting is Meyer’s take on the racial politics of policing the Rainbow Nation. Experienced white cops are squeezed out to make room for their younger Xhosa and Zulu colleagues while the insecure Fransman Dekker fears his “coloured” status means he is just as likely to be overlooked by the new regime as the old one and looks for solace in casual sexual flings.
Put together, a cracking read from one of Africa’s finest.