15 June 2011

Review: TRACKERS, Deon Meyer

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (September 6, 2011)
  • Language: English - (originally written in Afrikaans. translated into English by K Seegers)
  • ISBN-10: 080211993X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802119933
  • Source:  advanced copy as an e-version from NetGalley provided by the publisher Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • aka SPOOR (Afrikaans title)
Marketing Copy

Lemmer, a freelance bodyguard, goes against his rule to not get involved when a wealthy farmer asks for his help smuggling a pair of rare black rhinos out of Zimbabwe, where the animals are murdered for their horns. Before he knows it, Lemmer is in a small airplane, zipping across the border with an airsickness bag in his hand and a military-grade shotgun at his feet. But trouble finds Lemmer on a deserted road in Zimbabwe that night. Big trouble.

Back in Cape Town, Milla Strachan, the emotionally abused wife of a philandering husband and the mother of a cruel teenage son, works up the courage to pack up and start a new life. But at forty, it’s tough to find work as a journalist and Milla takes what she can get—in this case, a classified job writing intelligence reports. It’s exciting work, more exciting than she could have imagined, and more dangerous than she could have ever expected. Connecting Milla and Lemmer is Mat Joubert, a former detective working on his first case as a private eye.

Moving between a phenomenal cast of characters including farmers, outlaws, gangsters, and intelligence agents, Meyer delves deep into the people, the problems, and the landscapes of South Africa. He is an insightful writer that expands the reader’s horizons as he threatens to take ones breath away.

For a different blurb check the page on Deon Meyer's own website where other aspects of the story are described, you can browse the photo gallery the author assembled before he began writing, or see an Afrikaans trailer on YouTube.

My take

I found TRACKERS a challenging book to read but all my "problems" are probably minor when you consider what Deon Meyer has attempted to do, and succeeded in doing. The book's length and structure create complexity.

Another reviewer talks about the roller coaster ride you get when the novel presents a series of seemingly disconnected events that involve rhino smuggling, gang warfare, the FIFA soccer tournament and Al-Qaeda threats, and then get muddled up with intelligence gathering. The reader knows that somehow all of these things must jell together and it is almost with a sigh of relief that you welcome a familiar face, Mat Joubert, Bennie Griessel's boss in earlier books. You just know if anyone can get you out of this mental mess, then Mat can.

The novel is set in a South Africa that has "gone wrong". Mat Joubert for example has resigned from a police force that he feels has lost its way, where he has become an insignificant and ineffective cog, but he comes to realise his new job is no better.
    But when he was inside, the last two, three years, another kind of loss had slowly overcome him –a disillusionment, a disappointment, a powerlessness, a realisation of potential leaking away, possibilities lost. He, who had been so positive to begin with, who believed the police service could get better, could adapt to the new challenges, new realities. He had supported the ideal wholeheartedly and enthusiastically, the ideal of a SAPS which reflected the population demographic, which deployed affirmative action to cancel out old injustices, which transformed to a proud, effective, modern instrument of government. Only to see how it was slowly poisoned by politics and good intentions and haste and stupidity. And, in the end, by greed and corruption. And when he spoke up, when he warned and advised and pleaded, they marginalised him, pushed him out of the pack, made it clear that they no longer had any use for him. A lifetime’s work. For nothing. No, no, he mustn’t think like that.
Take the case of Milla Strachan, a housewife, once trained as a journalist, but on the sidelines with home duties for twenty years. Gets a job with a government agency that assembles "intelligence" reports. Those who employ her have an agenda in their recruitment - they really want people who won't ask questions, despite the important nature of their work.
    “You do realise, we are all rejects,” said Jessica the Goddess as she poured more red wine, her words fuzzy from the alcohol. “All those questions you answered during the interviews, all the psycho-babble like ‘are you an ambitious person?’, it’s all bullshit. All they wanted to know was, are you a reject. They like that. A lost cause, an outsider. Damaged goods, well isolated.”
And as a result their reports become misinformation. Those at the writing level often see connections but their incompetent managers jump to the wrong conclusions and innocent people are credited with traitorous intent and become the target of surveillance and expensive "operations".

There's a lot to think about in TRACKERS. It is as if Deon Meyer has all these ideas boiling inside him - things he must write about - but only an annual book to do it in. This gives TRACKERS a voice that goes beyond crime fiction.

My rating: 4.7

Other Deon Meyer titles I have reviewed (I have many to catch up on)

"Counting" TRACKERS in these lists: e-book challenge, 2011 Global Reading Challenge, and translated books.


Anonymous said...

Kerrie - Thanks - as always, a fine review. It sounds as though there really is quite a lot in this one. I'm glad that Meyer has succeeded as well as he has from your perspective. I really must get back to reading more of his stuff...

Anonymous said...

Thank you Kerrie for keeping us posted on a new Meyer book. Lookung forward to reading it.

Maxine Clarke said...

Hi Kerrie, I am looking forward to reading your review after I've read the book, but just to note it is not written in English but Afrikaans, translated by K Seegers as usual.

Kerrie said...

Thanks Maxine. I've made the amendment on my blog post. The details I used came from the publisher and they had omitted the information about translation although of course I knew that.

Maxine Clarke said...

It is shocking how many publishers don't mention the translation or the translator on their own websites or in the Amazon et al listings. Some are exemplary at this, others terrible.


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