14 July 2010
Review: THIRTEEN HOURS, Deon Meyer
translated from Afrikaans by K. L. Seegers 2009
Published in English by Hodder & Stoughton 2010
When the story opens at 5:36 am, the girl has been running for over 3 hours. On Signal Hill Road she meets a woman with a dog, and asks for help. "They're going to kill me.... Call the police", and she runs on.
Detective Inspector Bernie Grissel is woken at about the same time. A girl's body has been found in the grounds of the Lutheran Church.
South Africa's Serious and Violent Crimes Unit has recently been dissolved, and Benny has a new job in the Provincial Task Force, mentoring six high flyers, trying to make good detectives out of them. He's luckier than his former boss Mat Joubert who seems to have gone into head office limbo. Benny's protege is already at the scene of the crime, and making minor mistakes.
By 7 am there's another body - this time the victim is the head of a record company. He has been found lying on his living room floor, shot three times, and his wife, and alcoholic is lying next to his body. Another detective for Benny to mentor.
Both cases are headline catchers, particularly when the dead girl is confirmed as an American backpacker, and the girl she is travelling with is found to be missing. These cases will confirm whether Bernie Grissel is any good as a mentor, whether the new scheme will work, and whether 3 of the new detectives have what it takes. There are local and international reputations riding on successful outcomes.
The cases are worked at a frenetic pace throughout the day, and the reader is made aware of the passage of time by section headings such as 05:36 - 07:00. The action moves swiftly, and reaches crisis point in both cases by the end of the day.
I enjoyed my second outing this year with Bernie Grissel (see my review of DEVIL'S PEAK). He is a likeable and very human character. In THIRTEEN hours he is nearing the end of his 6 months without alcohol, and wondering if his wife Anna will take him back. He realises though that he really has come to enjoy his independence.
You are probably wondering if you need to read the preceding title first. While I always recommend reading a series in order, there is no doubt that THIRTEEN HOURS works quite well on its own. It seems to me that Deon Meyer has seen to it that there is sufficient backstory to keep most new readers happy.
My rating: 4.8
THIRTEEN HOURS has been shortlisted for the 2010 CWA International Dagger,
Other reviews to check: Reactions to Reading, Crime Scraps, Euro Crime
Visit Deon Meyer's website