All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Devil’s Peak – Deon Meyer

on January 22, 2012

Devil’s Peak
Deon Meyer
Hodder & Stoughton
2007, 406p
Translated from the Afrikaans by K.L. Seegers
Read from my local library

Benny Griessel is an alcoholic. Not just a too-many-drinks-after-work every night sort of alcoholic. Not a bottle-of-red-with-dinner-every-night alcoholic either. But a drinking-during-the-day-at-work and every night until he passes out sort of alcoholic. A shoving around the wife and having to be helped drunkenly to the couch by his teenage son sort of alcoholic. And then the shoving around of the wife turns into whacking her one.

Benny’s wife Anna decides she’s had enough and for her sake and the sake of their two teenage children, Benny has to go. If he can stay sober -fully sober- for six months, then they’ll talk. Benny is on the knife edge of losing everything so when a new case comes in, he’s the best they’ve got, even if he is an alcoholic. Because Benny is a cop. And he needs to stay sober and catch a killer.

Thobela Mpayipheli lost someone close to him, someone that meant the world to him. He watched the justice system screw him over and when he sees a report of a child rapist going free on a technicality, something inside of him snaps. Who is standing up for the children? Who is fighting for their rights and for justice? The system isn’t working. Thobela thinks that he might be able to do a bit of a better job than the system. He turns vigilante, tired of reading things that sicken him in the media. Tired of feeling helpless over his own loss and the lack of justice within it. He’s already fought in wars. This is just another one.

Christine is a prostitute in Cape Town, a single mother who finds that sex work pays a heck of a lot more than waitressing . When she stumbles into something dangerous, she sees opportunity. Her world, Thobela’s world and Benny’s world will collide as Benny fights to solve not only the case of the vigilante killer but also a crime involving a Colombian drug lord. His professional life and his personal life will also collide in the worst way and everything will threaten the sobriety he clings to so precariously and his family relationships and the respect from his colleagues.

Devil’s Peak is my third Deon Meyer book in the last month or two and because I’ve read Trackers (although it was published later) it certainly helped with the experience of reading this one. What you get here are threads of stories that at first seem entirely unconnected. The narrative jumps back and forth -often without announcing that it’s going to do so, or that we’re switching the perspective- and the information is dribbled out in bits and pieces, often while other stuff is going on. This probably shouldn’t work as well as it does, but there’s something so seamless about the writing that all three strands of this plot weave together effortlessly.

Benny is an interesting protagonist (this is the first of two Benny Griessel novels that I know of). He’s a drunk – there’s really no other word for him. He’s ruled by alcohol, sinking into it to escape the demons he faces in his work in the Serious and Violent Crimes unit. His wife has had an absolute gutful of him and his drinking and the fact that he gave her a bit of a whack during his most recent binge has tipped her over the edge. Benny is now faced with a choice – get off the drink and try and win back the family he began to lose when the alcohol became more important, and try and regain some respect as a good cop who knows what he’s doing…or not. Succumb to the lure of the drink, to just drift through life in a wasted way, like so many other washed up cops. Benny’s thoughts revolve around alcohol, the compulsion to drink is enormous and he goes through hospitalisation, the DT’s and treatment via naltrexone in this novel. I won’t spoil if he slips up or not in this book but I already have the next novel out from the library and I’m interested to see how he’s going there!

The story line is clever in that the vigilante killer is a hard one to dislike. Criminals guilty of atrocities the world over get off on technicalities and when the atrocities committed are violent and sexual crimes against children, or even tiny babies, it’s easy to get inflamed over the lack of justice and the often pathetic punishment. It’s hard not to sort of like Thobela for the choices he makes, although this novel also highlights an extremely important point about undertaking such a role – you want to be very, very careful about being absolutely certain the person you’re seeking is the right one. And that they’re utterly 100% guilty of the crime.

As I’m reading this for Shannon’s Around The World in 12 Books Challenge, where the January month is South Africa, I’m going to talk just briefly about the points she wanted us to consider when reading a book for this challenge. My knowledge of South Africa isn’t extensive, limited to videos watched on apartheid during high school. Although this novel doesn’t touch on that and is set after it, it certainly addresses the divide that still exists between blacks and whites socially. Thobela is black, but it is assumed he is white by the police and profiler because he visits white neighbourhoods without arousing suspicion or even being detected, something that seems very difficult given how surprised and impressed people were about it.  There are remarks made by white cops about having to work with black cops, people are distinguished by their colour immediately whereas in other novels set in other countries, that wouldn’t be the first thing mentioned. Does this novel want to make me visit South Africa? Not really, but that’s not because I didn’t like what I read! It’s a plot driven crime novel, so it deals with the seedier side of things – importation of drugs, child abuse crimes etc. Not things that happen exclusively in that country (they happen everywhere) but that’s what the novel focused on. It was set mostly in Cape Town, so there wasn’t too much descriptively about the landscape or the geographic features. Blood Safari, another novel of Meyer’s made me want to visit the country but the setting wasn’t strictly important here – it was all about the story, with not a lot about the cities/towns/villages and lifestyles therein. I am finding the area (and southern Africa in general) fascinating though and have read 5 or 6 novels set in this part of the world in the last couple of months and have a couple more on my shelves. So with each novel I read, it does make me want to read more books set here and learn about this part of the world.

8/10

Book #9 of 2012

This is my January novel for the Around The World In 12 Books Challenge, set in the first nominated country, South Africa.

I’m also counting this novel towards the What’s In A Name?5 Challenge. It fits into the first category: Read a book with a topographical feature in the title. Devil’s Peak is actually part of the mountain range near Cape Town in South Africa, where this novel takes place. So it doesn’t just feature a land formation, it is one!

Both challenges allow books to cross-qualify.


3 responses to “Devil’s Peak – Deon Meyer

  1. I don’t read much crime fiction at all, only the “literary” kind, but I think the different setting and culture make it more appealing to me. I mean, I’d be more likely to read this kind of crime fiction than I dunno, Lee Childs or Sue Grafton or something! It also sounds kinda depressing, in the summary, but maybe that’s just my impression?

    • I never read a lot either, but I’m starting to read more and more lately due to reading a couple of blogs that review mostly crime fic, which is how I found this author when I needed some books set in Africa for a challenge last year.

      I suppose it -does- sound depressing going on that but it doesn’t read that way, if you know what I mean. I became pretty invested in Benny and his journey to stop drinking, and while there were some bad things happening, they weren’t really detailed for you to linger on.

      If you want to try one, Blood Safari is my favourite.

  2. […] “The story line is clever in that the vigilante killer is a hard one to dislike. Criminals guilty of atrocities the world over get off on technicalities and when the atrocities committed are violent and sexual crimes against children, or even tiny babies, it’s easy to get inflamed over the lack of justice and the often pathetic punishment.” — all the books i can read […]

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