Thursday, September 1, 2011

Trackers by Deon Meyers


Long before I started recording the books I’d read and writing reviews, I read my first Deon Meyer novel called Heart of the Hunter. It was a tremendous introduction to South African fiction—rich with characters strong and brave, written with such specific local color, one could be nowhere else on earth. I now grab Meyer’s new books whenever a bookstore is wise enough to stock them, and recommend them to anyone who likes international mystery fiction.

In this latest offering, Meyers takes on a plot thick with international terrorism, diamond and animal smuggling, and gang warfare. He reprises or invokes old faces: private investigator Mat Joubert; “retired” bad boy and private security bodyguard Lemmer; Lukas Becker, archeologist and bruiser with a heart of gold; Benny Griessel, policeman extraordinaire. We are introduced to a new character that we hope to see again: Cornelia Johanna van Jaarsveld, better known as the animal tracker, “Flea.” It is a lot to assimilate, but Meyer manages. The final third of the book is riveting, and exhibits Meyer’s great skill: writing a fast-paced story unique with characters that matter to us.

This big book is almost an embarrassment of riches: many threads, stories within stories, lots of characters. It could have been three separate novels, though they all tied together at the end. In my ebook version, the first one hundred pages “set the scene” for an international terrorism plot, but do not display Meyer’s great skills at characterization. The reader must not lose hope, because the rest of the book is hallmark Meyer. I perhaps would have encouraged greater editing on the background terror plot, while I understand the reason for it. It was, perhaps, more detailed than necessary and certainly less interesting. It would have taken some effort to shorten the plot explication while highlighting Milla, the character who later plays a pivotal role. In any case, far be it from me to withhold praise from Deon Meyer, who can be masterful in sharing South Africa with us.

As an added bonus, Meyer’s website has photographs posted by the author that show the locales he describes in the book, titled Spoor in the Afrikaans edition. In case you’ve never been to South Africa, this is a good opportunity to visualize the landscape Meyer describes in his novels.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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