Tuesday 19 April 2016

Icarus by Deon Meyer

If you read a lot, and your preference is for crime and mystery, featuring strong characters and a psychological element, you will have read novels set everywhere from Ireland to Cleveland, Chicago to Turkey. It is good for me to come home. Deon Meyer has done it again - made me feel happy to be a South African. Delighted that there are authors who have lived here who can tell a story so well, where the setting is familiar, the dialogue rings true, and the characters may live next door.
Deon Meyer stands head and shoulders above the others, however. Maybe it's because this is his 5th Benny Griessel? He knows the dude so well, he could tell you what toilet paper he uses (he doesn't) and favourite haunts to escape reality and indulge. 
I recently discovered that Deon, on his website, features some beautiful photographs of the settings of his novels.
Icarus is set in the Western Cape, mostly in Stellenbosch. If you're not from around here, you will enjoy the book even more if you visit the site, and you've been inside Alibi's offices, and sat at a table in Pane e Vino and tried to say no to temptation. Here's a teaser.

The Blaauwklippen valley
Enough about setting, more about the book. The body of Ernst Richter, MD of tech startup - Alibi.com, is discovered in the sand dunes on Blouberg beach, and no one wants to handle the crime -  one more picture, please?
The Blouberg beach

If you have been following Benny, you'll know of his struggles with alcoholism and his anxiety about his family and those he loves. You'll also have met Vaughn Cupido, the perfect foil to the gruff, obnoxious, to-the-point Griessel. Here's my favourite dialogue between them:
Vaughn: "The heart of the matter is, I can't be Vaughn the Terrible, if you aren't Benny the Sober. It's like that line in the movies - you complete me." 
Benny snorts, "And now you're going to kiss me."
The plot bends treacherously through computer hacking, dating courtesy of the internet, a company that will provide alibis should you want to cheat, wine production and the always trying South African Police Services at breakneck pace. Your driver is an alcoholic, not really committed to recovering, who has failed at so many aspects of life, and doesn't really like you much. The road is dirt, full of hairpin bends, and the car is unreliable at best. Your eyes are peeled for the inevitable conclusion, yet you cheer for the good guys, even though they are so deeply flawed. Because you have to.
An exhilarating read.
Note: If you are not South African, there is a glossary of terms at the back of the book, which you may find helpful. I doubt one can look up fokkit (although you may not need to!) on Google.
5 stars
You may also enjoy Michael Robotham's Close your Eyes 

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