Dead at Daybreak

Dead at Daybreak

4.5 7
by Deon Meyer, Sisi Aisha Johnson, Saul Reichlin

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The newest headspinning thriller from breakout South African crime writer Deon Meyer: the story of an ex-cop who has seven days to solve a seemingly unsolvable crime—the answer to which lies in his own dark past.When Smit, an antiques dealer, is burned with a blowtorch then killed execution-style with a single shot to the back of the head, former cop Zatopek


The newest headspinning thriller from breakout South African crime writer Deon Meyer: the story of an ex-cop who has seven days to solve a seemingly unsolvable crime—the answer to which lies in his own dark past.When Smit, an antiques dealer, is burned with a blowtorch then killed execution-style with a single shot to the back of the head, former cop Zatopek “Zed” van Heerden is called in to investigate the unusual circumstances of the murder. Zed is still obsessed with the betrayals of his own past but must fill in the blanks of the victim's life. Who tortured and killed Smit, and who was he in the first place? Not the man whose papers he carries, that much is certain. Zed can never be sure of the loyalties of the people with whom he is dealing—his own past reputation ensures that—and he soon finds himself uncovering secrets that the security services of many countries would like left alone.

Author Biography: Deon Meyer is an internationally renowned South African crime writer who also works as a journalist and Internet consultant. He is the author of Heart of the Hunter and Dead Before Dying, which is forthcoming from Little, Brown and Company. He lives in Cape Town.

Editorial Reviews

Kevin Allman
What makes Lethal Legacy one of Linda Fairstein's stronger offerings is the intriguing setting: the catacombs beneath the New York Public Library. It also helps that the author downplays the unrealistic girlie-girl aspects of Cooper's life…in favor of a heightened focus on the mystery and its mix of high society, rare maps, library crimes and literary restoration. Fairstein presents the latter, interestingly and in great detail, as just another form of forensic science.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

At the start of bestseller Fairstein's entertaining 11th legal thriller to feature ADA Alexandra Cooper of Manhattan's Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit (after Killer Heat), Alex persuades librarian Tina Barr to go to the hospital after a burglar posing as a fireman assaults Tina at her East Side home. After Tina disappears, a woman's corpse turns up in Tina's abandoned apartment that looks like Tina's landlady, heiress Minerva Hunt, but in fact is Minerva's Romanian housekeeper. Alex and her sidekick, NYPD detective Mike Chapman, later learn that Tina was once employed by Minerva's father, Jasper Hunt, a rare book and map collector. The investigation leads Alex and her team into the dark depths of the New York Public Library in search of stolen items that certain bibliophiles and antique map enthusiasts would kill for. Full of fun information about the NYPL, the plot builds to a cool resolution that sets up Alex's next adventure involving a disturbing cold case. Author tour. (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
South African crime writer Meyer (Heart of the Hunter) seamlessly merges two engrossing story lines in his second novel, at once a character study and a violent crime story set in Cape Town. In the first-person backstory, Zatopek "Zed" van Heerden traces his maturation from a boy in search of his soul mate to a hardened 38-year-old ex-cop who acts out at the slightest provocation. At first, Zed seems destined for a career as a criminal psychologist, cloistered in the world of academe. But when he tracks down the serial killer responsible years earlier for the brutal murder of his neighbor, he finds his true calling and joins the police force. He leaves after the death of his partner during a raid, but there's a much deeper reason for his guilt and despair. In the third-person crime story, Zed has been hired to find the will of Jan Smit, a murdered antiques dealer. As he begins to make headway in the case, sinister forces hinder his quest for the truth. A breathtaking pace, heart-pounding action set against a psychological backdrop, and a fascinating protagonist make this book a winner. Highly recommended for most public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/05.]-Ronnie H. Terpening, Univ. of Arizona, Tuscon Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
More darkness out of post-apartheid South Africa, but after a sizzling debut, Meyer's second disappoints. It's that pesky protagonist problem. With Thobela Mpayipheli, black, ex-freedom fighter, Meyer got it right in Heart of the Hunter (2004). With Zat van Heerden, white ex-cop, he doesn't. Thobela is all about action, purpose, narrative drive. Zat, on the other hand, throbs with angst and wallows in introspection, both of which will hamper pace and hamstring thrillers every time. Zat is in a bad way when first we meet him as a self-hating borderline alcoholic. He does, however, have at least one long-suffering friend. Kemp guides Zat to Hope Beneke, an attractive young lawyer who needs an experienced investigator, a description that would have fit Zat tidily before he messed himself up. (How and why is exhaustively rendered in flashbacks that also hamper pace.) Hope's client is the surviving significant other of a brutally murdered millionaire. In the process, Jan Smit's safe was robbed of everything in it, including the will that left the bulk of his estate to the deserving Wilna van As. Without it, lock, stock and barrel goes to the government. Zat's charge-find and retrieve the will before the final sitting of the Master's Supreme Court in exactly one week. Zat knows, of course, that the task isn't going to be easy. What he can't know is how wild the complications will become when, as it soon turns out, Jan Smit isn't-and never was-Jan Smit. Well, then, who was he? That's the kind of secret hard men on both sides of the law will do just about anything to keep hidden. But Zat buckles down, chasing the missing will and his own redemption simultaneously. A step back then, but enoughflashes of real talent to hope for better from his next.
New York Times Book Review
“Layers and layers of criminal history and political intrigue are exposed in Dead at Daybreak.”
New York Times Book Review
“A remarkable achievement from a singular new talent.”
Publishers Weekly [HC starred review]
From the Publisher
“Meyer manages to ratchet up the tension so effectively that [listeners] will have a hard time deciding which mystery they wish to pierce first. . . . A narrative gem.”
Booklist [HC starred review]

“As the life of the broken-down South African detective unfolds, Vance’s soft-spoken style allows the depths of his character to come through.”

Product Details

Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date:

Read an Excerpt

Dead at Daybreak

By Deon Meyer

Little, Brown

Copyright © 2000 Deon Meyer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-316-00012-4

Chapter One

He awoke abruptly out of an alcohol-sodden sleep, the pain in his ribs his first conscious sensation. Then the swollen eye and upper lip, the antiseptic, musty smell of the cell, the sour odor of his body, the salty taste of blood and old beer in his mouth. And the relief.

Jigsaw pieces of the previous evening floated into his mind. The provocation, the annoyed faces, the anger - such normal, predictable motherfuckers, such decent, conventional pillars of the community.

He remained motionless, on the side that wasn't painful, the hangover throbbing like a disease through his body.

Footsteps in the corridor outside, a key turning in the lock of the gray steel door, the grating of metal slicing through his head. Then the uniform stood there.

"Your attorney's here," the policeman said. Slowly he turned on the bed. Opened one eye. "Come." A voice devoid of respect.

"I don't have an attorney." His voice sounded far away. The policeman took a step, hooked a hand into the back of his collar, pulled him upright. "Come on."

The pain in his ribs. He stumbled through the cell door, down the paved passage to the charge office.

The uniform walked ahead, used a key to indicate the way to the small parade room. He entered with difficulty, hurting. Kemp sat there, his briefcase next to him, a frown on his face. He sat down in a dark blue chair, his head in his hands. He heard the policeman close the door behind him and walk away.

"You're trash, Van Heerden," said Kemp. He didn't respond.

"What are you doing with your life?" "What does it matter?" His swollen lip lisped the s. Kemp's frown deepened. He shook his head. "They didn't even bother to lay a charge."

He wanted to indulge in the relief, the lessening of the pressure, but it eluded him. Kemp. Where the fuck did Kemp come from?

"Even dentists know shit when they see it. Jesus, Van Heerden, what's with you? You're pissing your life away. Dentists? How drunk do you have to be to take on five dentists?"

"Two were GPs." Kemp took in Van Heerden's appearance. Then the attorney got up, a big man, clean and neat in a sports jacket and gray slacks, the neutral colors of the tie a perfect match. "Where's your car?"

He rose to his feet slowly, the world tilting slightly. "At the bar." Kemp opened the door and walked out. "Come on, then."

Van Heerden followed him into the charge office. A sergeant pushed his possessions over the counter, a plastic bag containing his slender wallet and his keys. He took it without making eye contact.

"I'm taking him away," said Kemp. "He'll be back."

The day was cold. The wind knifed through his thin jacket and he resisted the impulse to pull it closer around his body. Kemp climbed into his large 4x4, leaned across, and unlocked the passenger door. Slowly Van Heerden walked around the vehicle, climbed in, closed the door, and leaned his head against it. Kemp pulled off.

"Which bar?" "The Sports Pub, opposite Panarotti's."

"What happened?" "Why did you fetch me?"

"Because you told the entire Table View police station that I would sue them and the dentists for everything ranging from assault to brutality."

He vaguely remembered his charge-office tirade. "My attorney." Mockingly.

"I'm not your attorney, Van Heerden." The ache in the swollen eye killed his laughter. "Why did you fetch me?"

Aggressively Kemp changed gears. "Fuck alone knows." Van Heerden turned his head and looked at the man behind the steering wheel. "You want something."

"You owe me." "I owe you nothing."

Kemp drove, looking for the pub. "Which car is yours?" He pointed to the Corolla.

"I'll follow you. I have to get you clean and respectable." "What for?" "Later."

He got out, walked across the road, and got into the Toyota. He found it difficult to unlock the door, his hand shaking. The engine stuttered, wheezed, and eventually fired. He drove to Koeberg Road, left past Killarney, onto the N7, wind suddenly sweeping rain across the road. Left to Morning Star and left again to the entrance to the smallholding, Kemp's imported American Ford behind him. He looked at the big house among the trees but turned off to the small whitewashed building and stopped.

Kemp stopped next to him, opening his window just a crack against the rain. "I'll wait for you."

First of all he showered, without pleasure, letting the hot water sluice over his body, his hands automatically soaping the narrow space between shoulder and chest and belly - just the soap, no washcloth, careful over the injured part of the ribs. Then, methodically, he washed the rest of himself, leaning his head against the wall for balance as he did first one foot, then the other, eventually turning off the taps and pulling the thin, overlaundered white towel from the rail. Sooner or later he would have to buy a new towel. He let the hot tap of the washbasin run, cupped his hands under the slow stream, and threw the water over the mirror to wash away the steam. He squeezed a dollop of shaving cream into his left hand, dipped the shaving brush into it, made it foam. He lathered his face.

The eye looked bad, red and puffy. Later it would be purplish blue. Most of the scab on his lip had been washed off. Only a thin line of dried blood remained.

He pulled the razor from the left ear downward, all the way across the skin, over the jawline into the neck, then started at the top again, without looking at himself. Pulled the skin of his jaw to tighten it around the mouth, then did the right side, rinsed the razor, cleaned the basin with hot water, dried off again. Brushed his hair. Had to clean the brush: it was clogged with black hair.

Had to buy new underpants. Had to buy new shirts. Had to buy new socks. Trousers and jacket still reasonable. Fuck the tie. The room was dark and cold. Rain against the windows at ten past eleven in the morning.

He walked out. Kemp opened the door of the 4x4.

There was a long silence that lasted as far as Milnerton.

"Where to?" "City."

"You want something."

"One of our assistants has started her own practice. She needs help."

"You owe her."

Kemp merely snorted. "What happened last night?" "I was drunk."

"What happened last night that was different?" There were pelicans on the lagoon opposite the golf course. They were feeding, undisturbed by the rain.

"They were so full of their fucking four-by-fours."

"So you assaulted them?" "The fat one hit me first." "Why?"

He turned his head away. "I don't understand you." He made a noise in his throat.

"You can make a living. But you have such a shitty opinion of yourself ..."

Paarden Island's industries moved past. "What happened?"

Van Heerden looked at the rain, fine drops scurrying across the windshield. He took a deep breath, a sigh for the uselessness of it all. "You can tell a man his four-by-four isn't going to make his prick any larger and he pretends to be deaf. But drag in his wife ..."


For a brief moment he felt the hate again, the relief, the moment of release of the previous evening: the five middle-aged men, their faces contorted with rage, the blows, the kicks that rained down on him until the three bartenders managed to separate them.

They didn't speak again until Kemp stopped in front of a building on the Foreshore.

"Third floor. Beneke, Olivier, and Partners. Tell Beneke I sent you."

He nodded and opened the door, got out. Kemp looked thoughtfully at him.

Then he closed the door and walked into the building.

He slumped in the chair, lack of respect evident in his posture. She had asked him to sit down. "Kemp sent me," was all he had said. She had nodded, glanced at the injured eye and lip, and ignored them.

"I believe that you and I can help each other, Mr. van Heerden." She tucked her skirt under her as she sat down.

Mister. And the attempt at common ground. He knew this approach. But he said nothing. He looked at her. Wondered from whom she had inherited the nose and the mouth. The large eyes and the small ears. The genetic dice had fallen in strange places for her, leaving her on the edge of beauty.

She had folded her hands on the desk, the fingers neatly interlaced. "Mr. Kemp told me you have experience of investigative work but are not in permanent employ at the moment. I need the help of a good investigator." Norman Vincent Peale. She spoke smoothly and easily. He suspected that she was clever. He suspected she would take longer to unnerve than the average female.

She opened a drawer, took out a file. "Did Kemp tell you I was trash?"

Her hands hesitated briefly. She gave him a stiff smile. "Mr. van Heerden, your personality doesn't interest me. Your personal life doesn't interest me. This is a business proposition. I'm offering you a temporary job opportunity for a professional fee."

So fucking controlled. As if she knew everything. As if her cell phone and her degree were the only defense she needed.

"How old are you?" "Thirty," she said without hesitation.

He looked at her third finger, left hand. It was bare.

"Are you available, Mr. van Heerden?" "It depends on what you want."


Excerpted from Dead at Daybreak by Deon Meyer Copyright © 2000 by Deon Meyer. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

SIMON VANCE is a prolific and popular audiobook narrator and actor with several hundred audiobooks to his credit. An Audie® Award-winner, Vance was recently named "The Voice of Choice" by Booklist magazine.

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Dead at Daybreak 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In South Africa, a mutual friend persuades attorney Hope Beneke to hire former cop Afrikaner and self pitying drunk Zatopek 'Zet' van Heerden to find a missing will. Recently in Durbanville someone executed and burned with a blow torch millionaire antiques dealer Johannes Jacobus Smit in the victim¿s home however, the deceased¿s will and other items in his walk-in safe vanished. The attorney further explains to Zet that he has one week to accomplish the mission or the state confiscates Smit¿s wealth leaving his common-law wife Wilhelmina Johanna van As of eleven years with zilch.................. Sobering up Zet knows the probability of solving this case in seven days is impossible, but begins making inquiries. He quickly learns that Johannes never existed before 1983 making the case even more complex and needing a divine miracle. Zet tries to track who Smit previously was, but thugs and law enforcement officials do anything and everything to prevent his learning the dead man¿s former identity even as the clock ticks away................... Though self wallowing and loathing himself, Zet still retains the HEART OF THE HUNTER as he investigates who Smit was, why he was murdered, and what happened to the will. The story line is action-packed for the most part though when the hero looks back at his own life while searching for clues as to Smit, the tale, though interesting in terms of character development, slows down on these sidebars. Still this is an exhilarating legal thriller private investigative tale that showcases how talented Deon Meyer is while providing a deep look at South Africa then and now.................. Harriet Klausner
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