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Dead Before Dying

by Deon Meyer
Translated from the Afrikaans language by Madeleine van Biljon

      Mal Joubert, a 34 year old detective in the Cape Town Murder and Robbery Department has been depressed and suicidal since his wife, and fellow cop, was killed in the line of duty as an undercover agent two years ago. He is overweight and smoking too much. His newly appointed boss, Bart deWit, the first black Minster of law and order in the new South Africa, is a bureaucrat determined to make a name for himself. He is a compulsive health freak. He sends Joubert to a psychiatrist for counseling and insists that he lose weight and stop smoking.

Joubert has been working on the case of "The Gentleman Robber" who is hitting the branches of the Premier Bank. But deWit assigns him to investigate a bizarre series of murders committed with a century-old Mauser pistol used by the Afrikaners in the Boer War. The killer even uses vintage cartridges. The newspapers are having a heyday with the series of murders. This investigation gives Joubert an opportunity for redemption. He has to cope with the horror and brutality of the random murders and the devastation these acts leave in their wake.

This is a superb police procedural. It gives a graphic picture of South African police procedures, and connects the heartbreak of the victims with the heartbroken detective assigned to the case with humor and pathos in equal parts. The plot is complex, filled with action, excitement, and intense tension. The realistically portrayed characters, with their ordinary problems, are brought to life.

This is a gritty page turner which grips the reader from start to finish, and will keep the reader guessing to the end.

Highly recommended.

The Book

Little Brown and Company
May 9,2006
Mystery - Cape Town, South Africa
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The Reviewer

Barbara Buhrer
Reviewed 2006
© 2006