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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Icarus. Deon Meyer (Writer), K.L. Seegers (Translation) Hodder & Stoughton (2015)

A very entertaining South African murder mystery that is very carefully structured and leads to a deeply satisfying conclusion. Ernst Richter 's body is found in the sand dunes outside of Cape Town and the first problem the investigating team is that they have an abundance of possible suspects. Richter ran a website that provided alibi's for people who are having an affair, work that created considerable controversy. At the same time a man starts to talk to a lawyer about his deeply unhappy family history and their wine making business. The two threads run in parallel until the cleverly staged reveals start to draw them together up to the happily unexpected and satisfyingly sharp conclusion.
The plot mechanics are wonderful, the possibilities arising out of Richter's website are carefully followed and alternative possibilities are raised and managed with care and skill. The different timelines covered by the two major story threads are tightly pulled together as the hidden context starts to emerge into light and the whole scope of the story comes into view.
The context for the story is intriguing, South Africa emerges as a jigsaw where the parts have not been successfully put together, they are all close to each other, enough to see the whole picture, they have not been actually put together. The history of South Africa is still present, intruding into every aspect of life and casting a shadow over the cast.
Deon Meyer has created a very extensive cast and it steadily becomes clear that the plot is arising directly from the actions and intentions of the cast as they seek to shape and control their lives. The investigating team are competent, focused and credibly fallible. Benny Griessel is fighting a loosing battle with his alcohol addiction and the weight of it starts to pull him out of the investigation and his own life. Don Meyer sidesteps the genre staple of a dysfunctional detective with a sharp focus on the power of addiction to reemerge after being apparently dormant. The rest of the investigating team are treated with care and each emerge as people doing a job responding personally and professionally to the circumstances and pressure of the case.
The family history is clearly heading for somewhere unpleasant, the reveals control the possibilities until a final reveal that plays with readers expectations.
Don Meyer takes his time to unfurl the full depth of the story and the time is well spent as it set up the cast and the context and gives the reader plenty of room to become deeply involved in both the narratives before being captured by the jaws of a perfectly sprung plot. Smart, considered crime writing, a pleasure.
K.L. Seegers translation form Afrikaans is transparent and still delivers the accent of the original language which is important in feeling the context of the action.

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