Deon Meyer is a great South African thriller writer: one of those who consistently rises above the ‘genre’ of police procedural and standard crime thriller to create memorable, involving characters, complex plots and insight to the country they are based in. In this instance, Dead At Daybreak doesn’t feature his recurring Johannesburg police inspector, Benny Griessel, but the wonderfully dour and complicated Zed van Heerden in the central role.
It’s a gripping ride, combining the story of van Heerden’s spiral downwards which is where we start the book, with the unravelling and unwinding plot that begins with a will and escalates into a safe, a mystery and danger round every corner. On a purely ‘page-turning’ level, this is top stuff and confirms Meyer as one of my favourite crime writers in terms of plot, pacing and characterisation.
What makes this book a notch higher still in my estimation is the brilliant intertwining of stories and the consistent and illuminating insight into South Africa that the novel gives – not in a shoe-horned making-a-political-statement kind of way, but just moments of reflection and passing comments that draw attention to both the ongoing effects of apartheid, the changes being wrought on society, and the individual journeys that is requiring people to go on.
In short, this might be more than a decade old, but it’s well worth a few hours of your time – and I’ll be continuing to go back through Meyer’s previous novels to dive into.
BUY IT NOW: Dead at Daybreak