A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.
Cobra, by Deon Meyer (Atlantic Monthly Press)
The Gist: Captain Benny Griessel (last seen in Seven Days, 2012) “is called in when renowned mathematician David Adair is kidnapped from a remote hideaway, his bodyguards shot dead,” explains Kirkus Reviews. “The crime is traced to the international assassin team known as Cobra, which is after a memory card containing information that could expose major worldwide financial corruption. Meanwhile, Tyrone Kleinbooi, a small-time pickpocket who steals to support his sister, inadvertently winds up with the card when he robs Adair’s assistant and lover, Lillian Alvarez. Already running from the law, Tyrone witnesses a further shooting and now finds himself a Cobra target as well.” Crimepieces blogger Sarah Ward writes that “Unlike some of Meyer’s earlier books, Cobra has a straightforward linear narrative. The story focuses on the tension that arises when Tyrone Kleinbooi ... attempts to extract as much as he can from the circumstances. While this makes the narrative fast paced, it does detract from the quality of the investigation that we would normally expect in Meyer’s books.”
What Else You Should Know: Steve Dougherty observes in The Wall Street Journal that Griessel, “descendant of Dutch colonists, is a member of the former ruling minority in a dizzyingly diverse nation with 11 official state languages and a multitude of ethnic and tribal groups among its
54 million people. Mr. Meyer takes full advantage of this diversity with his cast of characters. In Cobra, Griessel has been recently promoted to the Cape Town Hawks, one of South Africa’s elite squads of murder and violent-crimes investigators. A microcosm of the city’s ethnic mix, his Hawks colleagues include an overweight Zulu woman named Mbali, who is a passionate believer in the ideals of the new, integrated South Africa. She is also a dour, by-the-books policewoman. Her foil, Cupido, is a mixed-race, Afrikaans-speaking so-called ‘Cape colored.’ That is, a descendant of Malaysian slaves brought to South Africa by the Dutch in the 1600s who intermarried with white settlers and indigenous
Africans.” Ward concludes: “Meyer is a great chronicler of modern-day South Africa and he always maintains a clear-eyed view of how justice works in the country.”