Thirteen Hours

"Edgy, subtly plotted and beautifully balanced between fast-paced action, believable characterisation, the tense process of investigation and penetrating social comment." - Graeme Blundell in The Australian.

At 05:36 the woman is running up Lion’s Head. She is young, beautiful, American. And terrified. Because she is being hunted, like an animal.

At 05:37, the call wakes detective inspector Benny Griessel. There’s been a murder. A girl, her throat slit, her body lying next to St. Martini, the Lutheran Church in Long Street.

At 07:02, the hung-over, alcoholic former singing sensation Alexa Barnard discovers her philandering music mogul husband’s body next to her on the floor – and a pistol just inches from her hand.

By nine o’clock, with two murders to solve and his own longing for the bottle almost unbearable, Griessel realises his mentorship of a new generation of law enforcers is going to be a little more complicated than he anticipated.

Past noon, the race to save a young tourist from death becomes desperate and chaotic, and just before half past five, they shoot Griessel, right in the heart.

Fairly normal day, your typical thirteen hours of Cape Town homicide investigation.

More reviews:

  • Mark Scala in the Sidney Daily Telegraph: ... this thriller which has it all - engaging characters and an unpredictable conclusion. Verdict: Not your average crime story.

  • Betsey Van Horn in American Statesman: The narrative is bracing and the characters resonant and ripe. Meyer's pitch-perfect pace purrs and thrums. The reader feels like a detective as fragments eventually pull together from the grime of corruption. You suspect, you speculate and you quiver.

  • Antonia Fraser in The Lady (UK): One of the most exciting thrillers I've read for a long time.

  • Christopher Fowler in the Financial Times (UK): South African thrillers arrive with racial baggage, and it’s a mark of Meyer’s talent to see just how well the issues are balanced with a smashing story. Imposing a strict time limit and a tight location on his plot, he ramps up the suspense to an unbearable degree.

    Best of all, his sharply drawn characters really feel part of the new South Africa, where loyalties and beliefs must always be questioned.

  • Bernatette Inoz in Reactions to Reading: It’s not often that I feel like describing a book as perfect but I simply cannot think of a single thing I would change about Thirteen Hours. It has everything you’d want in a thriller and loads more besides, and is the hefty object I shall be hurling at the very next person who says in my hearing that crime fiction isn’t real literature.

  • The Sunday Times (UK) review by Joan Smith: At first glance, Deon Meyer’s detective shares characteristics with other fictional cops: he’s trying to give up booze and he’s separated from his wife, although he hasn’t given up hope that she’ll come back. What makes this novel so outstanding is its setting — the new South Africa, where jaded white detectives are still getting used to working with black and “coloured” (in the country’s curious parlance) colleagues — and Meyer’s superlative talent for suspense.

    Some of the best crime fiction is rooted in contemporary events. Twenty years after the release of Nelson Mandela, South Africa remains a troubled place, and Meyer’s novels give rare insights into the texture of everyday life. Above all, though, this is a vigorous, exciting novel that combines memorable characters and plot with edge-of-the-seat suspense.

The World of Thirteen Hours

City steeple: At the top end of Long Street in downtown Cape Town is the St. Martini Kirche, a Lutheran church. This is where Benny Griessel is called at 05:37 in the morning, the beginning of 13 long hours.


Body of Evidence: The Lutheran church yard where the body of a young backpacking tourist is found right next to the big tree on the left.


Rude Awakening: The house in Brownlow Street, Cape Town, on which the residence of Xandra Barnard is modelled. A former acclaimed singer, she wakes up to find the body of her husband on the floor next to her.


Table Mountain Track: This is the foot path along which Rachel Anderson flees. Lion's Head is in the background.


Dangerous Deli: Carlucci's, as the restaurant and deli in Montrose Street, Gardens, was called when Deon wrote the novel. The photograph is looking down Upper Orange Street, towards downtown Cape Town, the direction in which Rachel flees.


Phoning home: The pay telephone in the deli where Rachel calls home can be seen right behind the guy sitting at the table.