Friday, March 15, 2013

Review of Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer (Hodder, 2010)

Benny Griesel’s home and work life seem to be drifting away from him. He’s been sober for six months, but his wife has still not let him return to the family home. At work he’s been eased to one side, assigned the role of mentor to a new crop of detectives. The day starts badly when he gets an early morning call about the discovery of a body. A short time later he receives a second call; another body has been found. Both are high profile: a young American tourist and the owner of a successful record label. His day is going to be busy and stressful, giving advice to two rookie detectives. Then he discovers that a second American tourist is being chased by a gang of men intent on killing her. Griesel is ordered to take charge of finding and protecting the young woman. But not only is she running scared, she believes that some of the men pursuing her are police officers. The clock is ticking and time is running out for both the woman and Griesel.

Thirteen Hours starts at a brisk pace and hurtles along to its tense conclusion. The journey, however, is not overly linear, with Meyer managing to create a layered, complex and compelling story consisting of two intersected plotlines. The contextualisation is excellent, particularly with respect to the dynamics and politics of the Afrikaans music industry and the South African police force, and the social geography of Cape Town. The characterisation is very nicely realised, especially Griesel and his fellow cops, and Meyer is particularly good at portraying the interplay and dynamics between characters and how these evolve over time and in context. The only slight niggle was the sense that woman being chased should have really been able to find safety in such a large and busy city, especially once she knows the US authorities are also looking for her, yet when she does find refuge she takes a bath rather than calling for help. Other than that, this is a great read - a tense, fast-moving, textured thriller - which definitely whets the appetite for spending more time in Griesel’s company.

2 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Rob - I'm very glad you liked this one as much as you did. I admire the depth Meyer gives to his characters without sacrificing pace or plot. And this one is a good example of that.

pattinase (abbott) said...

On my tbr. Some day soon.