Dead Before Dying
"The characters are multi-dimensional and their work and personal lives share the stage in a manner that brings them and the story to life."
Latest review from the USA:
Deon Meyer is a worldwide phenomenon you've probably never heard of.
In the world of crime fiction, Meyer could be compared to a South African Michael Connelly. His first novel, the acclaimed "Heart of the Hunter," is well on its way to becoming a feature film. "Dead At Daybreak" (2004) has been made into a 10-part television series broadcast to Africa and the Middle East.
"Dead Before Dying" might be his best yet.
Set in post-apartheid Cape Town, "Dead Before Dying" (Little, Brown; $24.95) places us in an uncomfortable interrogation room with police captain Mat Joubert, a man who can't escape his tragic past. It's been a little over two years since Joubert's wife (an officer herself) was killed in the line of duty. Joubert has been in an abusive relationship with booze, cigarettes, overeating and self-loathing. His new commanding officer is about to change all that.
The ever-intimidating Bart de Wit wants his Murder and Robbery detectives fit, both physically and mentally. When diets and mental health regimens are recommended, many of Joubert's comrades begin to fall by the wayside.
But a new series of crimes has the overweight and insecure Joubert beginning to feel like his old persona again.
Men, seemingly unknown to one another, are being murdered with a century-old German handgun. The killer's even using the original and very powerful bullets.
Joubert distills his rusty investigative skills with weekly visits to his new therapist while dodging advances from his neighbor's lusty teenage daughter. He's also caught up in a curious string of bank robberies orchestrated by an overly polite chameleon whose disguises change with each branch.
As the murder list and bank holdups increase - de Wit and the over-eager media threatening his every move - the slowly resurrecting cop realizes "you can takeJoubert out of the dark but you can't take the dark out of Joubert." A long-buried secret about his dead wife is about to surface, and the outcome may be lethal.
Though Meyer's tales are continents away, crime, race and dirty politics are still the same. The prose crackles with an original intensity that never stalls from the first murder to the unexpected ending.
"Dead Before Dying" is an excellent character-driven fable of fractured lives and the inner strength that gives one the ability to either climb out of the abyss or to become one with the darkness.
- JC Patterson, The Madison County Herald
And more ...
Hulking police captain Mat Joubert is near-suicidal after the death of his wife, who was killed in the line of duty as an undercover agent. Now he's living in a kind of purgatory, an overweight chain-smoker who is inattentive to his work in the Cape Town Murder and Robbery Department.
A new commanding officer, a political appointee, is on a tear, touting the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. He orders Joubert to see a psychiatrist and gives him one last chance to prove himself, putting him in charge of an investigation into a serial killer who uses a 100-year-old German handgun.
Joubert desperately races to find a connection among the victims, a case the newspapers are reveling in, which, in turn, increases the pressure to solve it. Meanwhile, in prosaic fashion, Joubert struggles to bring himself back to life by chucking the cigarettes, cooking low-cal meals, and taking up swimming. Meyer subtly juxtaposes the heartbreak of the victims' families with the heartbroken detective assigned to their cases.
Using humor and pathos in equal measure, Meyer builds a deeply moving portrait of a man in search of his own dignity, reclaiming his life one pool lap at a time.
- Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist starred review
Sadly, most Americans know little about South Africa. Admittedly, only a small amount of cultural knowledge can be gleaned from reading a thriller set there, but it's better than nothing, and when the suspense is as ripe as it is in this novel, the benefits are compounded.
Talking even savvy readers into trying a new author is the true reason critics work. A fine author such as Meyer makes the mission that much more acute.
Murder and Robbery detective Mat Jourbet has been operating in a much-diminished capacity since the death of his wife, Lara Jourbet. Lara was also a cop, killed in the line of duty. Only 34 and already going to seed, Jourbet is being pressured by his new boss to clean up his act and slough off the despondency that has been dragging him down.
It has been two years since his wife's death, and Jourbet's skills and desire to mete out justice have atrophied. He smokes, drinks too many beers and eats like an unleashed teenager. Worst of all, his new boss, De Wit, is an ambitious twit - or so it seems.
Sent to see a psychologist and dealing with the humiliation that entails, Jourbet is also investigating the serial murders of a disparate group of citizens. Due to the weapon used to dispatch the victims, the media is calling the killer the "Mauser Murderer."
The task of pulling together all his life demands and overcoming challenges both professional and personal threatens to overpower a very human protagonist.
Dead Before Dying is as much about what drives the living as it is about seeking retribution for the dead. You may not know a word of Afrikaans, but you will recognize the humanity in the characters in this finely wrought tale.- Peter Mergendahl, Rocky Mountain News