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3.5 13
by Deon Meyer

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Lemmer’s first rule is: “Don’t get involved.” A highly skilled bodyguard with a violent, criminal past, he has settled into a quiet life in Loxton, South Africa, where the rural tranquility has helped to calm his explosive temper. But when a wealthy farmer asks for his help in smuggling a pair of rare black rhinos out of Zimbabwe (where they are


Lemmer’s first rule is: “Don’t get involved.” A highly skilled bodyguard with a violent, criminal past, he has settled into a quiet life in Loxton, South Africa, where the rural tranquility has helped to calm his explosive temper. But when a wealthy farmer asks for his help in smuggling a pair of rare black rhinos out of Zimbabwe (where they are murdered for their horns), he has a hard time saying no. Before he knows it, Lemmer is on a small airplane, zipping across the border, an airsickness bag in his hand and a military-grade shotgun at his feet. Soon, he will regret the trip very much.

In Trackers, internationally-acclaimed thriller writer Deon Meyer expertly weaves together Lemmer’s story with a missing person investigation and the machinations of a top intelligence agency. Wielding a phenomenal cast of characters, Meyer delves deep into the people, the breathtaking landscapes, and the politics and problems of this fascinating country. A #1 best-seller in South Africa, Trackers is an insightful novel that will take your breath away.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Meyer's ambition matches his execution in this brilliantly complex stand-alone thriller set in his native South Africa. In 2009, Janina Mentz, director of the Presidential Intelligence Agency, is disturbed by rumors that her agency, a creation of a prior administration, will be folded into a new, consolidated national intelligence bureaucracy. Desperate to guard her turf, Mentz banks on information about an Islamic terror plot to preserve the PIA and her job. Her plan to thwart the terrorists and bulletproof her agency by showcasing its utility involves using Milla Strachan, an unemployed woman who's just left her husband, as a researcher. Meanwhile, the efforts of bodyguard Lemmer, who played a key role in Blood Safari, to smuggle endangered black rhinos out of Zimbabwe lead to unexpected trouble. Few readers will anticipate exactly how the separate plot strands will be resolved. This powerhouse read, which captures the many facets of modern South Africa, should be the American breakthrough book this talented author deserves. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
“Meyer demonstrates his superb gift for bringing together several disparate plots, striking characters, and vividly drawn scenes of contemporary South Africa, all roaring toward a climax with more than one surprise.”
Library Journal [HC starred review]

“Meyer’s ambition matches his execution in this brilliantly complex standalone thriller set in his native South Africa.”
Publishers Weekly [HC starred review]

Library Journal
Award-winning crime fiction author Meyer demonstrates his superb gift for bringing together several disparate plots, striking characters, and vividly drawn scenes of contemporary South Africa, all roaring toward a climax with more than one surprise. Milla Strachan, a discontented, fortyish housewife with journalistic yearnings, leaves her suburban family and takes a job writing security reports for the secretive Presidential Intelligence Agency. She becomes involved with a man who is being chased by her bosses and the CIA as a murderer and possible terrorist. Meanwhile, Lemmer, a professional bodyguard last seen in Blood Safari, is fighting gangsters while inadvertently smuggling black rhinos. Muslim terrorists lurk in the background of both plots. Elsewhere, Mat Joubert, a cop from Dead Before Dying who is now in private security, seeks a missing husband and a pile of money. VERDICT With a fine eye for detail, an unflattering image of South African culture, and clear sympathy for the downtrodden, Meyer still never loses his focus on page-turning suspense and riveting mystery. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 4/4/11.]—Roland Person, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale
Kirkus Reviews

Oh, what a tangled web those rhinos weave: South African mystery maven Meyers returns with a complex tale of intrigue and mayhem most satisfying.

Lemmer, the taciturn Afrikaner bodyguard whom we last saw inBlood Safari(2009), has a cardinal rule: Don't get mixed up in things. He might have known better, then, when he allows himself to get caught up in a snarled plot to smuggle black rhinos out of Zimbabwe, where they will be slaughtered so that their horns can go to make human-male-enhancing products for the Asian market. It's a noble enterprise, but as Lemmer well knows, no good deed goes unpunished, and no sooner does the operation embark than do things begin to unravel. Meanwhile, back in South Africa, a 40-something woman named Milla Strachan discovers, finally, that her husband is a right bastard, a "covert racist, bemoaning his lot in front of his son: 'Now we have to come home to a bloody black.' " The bloody black in question would be the maid who now tends to husband and offspring, since Milla has had enough of their abuse and has found a new home—and, more important, a new job working as an analyst for a shadowy government organization. Shift the focus a touch, and players in a cat-and-mouse game of terrorism and counterterrorism enter into the picture: al-Qaeda operatives on one hand, bureaucrats fearful of being made redundant in a downsizing of the post-apartheid security forces on the other. Meyer's carefully plotted narrative is multilayered and rich in detail, and it's to his credit that he is able to pull these separate, seemingly unrelated threads into an a-ha conclusion. In the end, it's about smuggling, killing, and other crimes, but also about the quotidian sins of racism, fear, aloofness, self-interest and mistreatment of others—in short, the ordinary human failings as well as their spectacular transgressions.

A first-rate thriller; a touch slow to get going, but hard to apply the brakes to once it gets rolling.

Product Details

Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
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Read an Excerpt

31 July 2009. Friday.
Ismail Mohammed runs down the steep slope of Heiliger Lane. The coat-tails of his white jalabiya robe with its trendy open mandarin collar flick up high with every stride. His arms wave wildly, in mortal fear, and for balance. The crocheted kufi falls off his head onto the cobbles at the crossroad, as he fixes his eyes on the relative safety of the city below.
Behind him the door of the one-storey building next to the Bo-Kaap’s Schotschekloof mosque bursts open for the second time. Six men, also in traditional Islamic garb, rush out onto the street all looking immediately, instinctively downhill. One has a pistol in his hand. Hurriedly, he takes aim at the figure of Ismail Mohammed, already sixty metres away, and fires off two wild shots, before the last, older man knocks his arm up, bellowing: ‘No! Go. Catch him.’
The three younger men set off after Ismail. The grizzled heads stand watching, eyes anxious at the lead they have to make up.
‘You should have let him shoot, Sheikh,’ says one.
‘No, Shaheed. He was eavesdropping.’
‘Exactly. And then he ran. That says enough.’
‘It doesn’t tell us who he’s working for.’
‘Him? Ismail? You surely don’t think . . .’
‘You never can tell.’
‘No. He’s too . . . clumsy. For the locals maybe. NIA.’
‘I hope you are right.’ The Sheikh watches the pursuers sprinting across the Chiappini Street crossing, weighing up the implications. A siren sounds up from below in Buitengracht.
‘Come,’ he says calmly. ‘Everything has changed.’
He walks ahead, quickly, to the Volvo.
From the belly of the city another siren begins to wail.
She knew the significance of the footsteps, five o’ clock on a Friday afternoon, so hurried and purposeful. She felt the paralysis of prescience, the burden. With great effort she raised up her defences against it. Barend came in, a whirlwind of shampoo and too much deodorant. She didn’t look at him, knowing he would be freshly turned out for the evening, his hair a new, dubious experiment. He sat down at the breakfast counter. ‘So, how are you, Ma? What’s cooking?’ So jovial.
‘Dinner,’ said Milla, resigned.
‘Oh. I’m not eating here.’
She knew that. Christo probably wouldn’t either.
‘Ma, you’re not going to use your car tonight, are you.’ In the tone of voice he had perfected, that astonishing blend of pre-emptive hurt and barely disguised blame.
‘Where do you want to go?’
‘To the city. Jacques is coming. He’s got his licence.’
‘Where in the city?’
‘We haven’t decided yet.’
‘Barend, I have to know.’ As gently as possible.
Ja, Ma, I’ll let you know later.’ The first hint of annoyance breaking through.
‘What time will you be home?’
‘Ma, I’m eighteen. Pa was in the army when he was this old.’
‘The army had rules.’
He sighed, irritated. ‘OK, OK. So . . . we’ll leave at twelve.’
‘That’s what you said last week. You only got in after two. You’re in Matric, the final exams . . .’
Jissis, Ma, why do you always go on about it? You don’t want me to have any fun.’
‘I want you to have fun. But within certain limits.’
He gave a derisory laugh, the one that meant he was a fool to put up with this. She forced herself not to react.
‘I told you. We will leave at twelve.’
‘Please don’t drink.’
‘Why do you worry about that?’
She wanted to say, I worry about the half-bottle of brandy I found in your cupboard, clumsily hidden behind your underpants, along with the pack of Marlboro’s. ‘It’s my job to worry. You’re my child.’ Silence, as if he accepted that. Relief washed over her. That was all he wanted. They had got this far without a skirmish. Then she heard the tap-tap of his jerking leg against the counter, saw how he lifted the lid off the sugar bowl and rolled it between his fingers. She knew he wasn’t finished. He wanted money too.
‘Ma, I can’t let Jacques and them pay for me.’
He was so clever with his choice of words, with the sequence of favours asked, with his strategy and onslaught of accusation and blame. He spun his web with adult skill, she thought. He set his snares, and she stepped into them so easily in her eternal urge to avoid conflict. The humiliation could be heard in her voice. ‘Is your pocket money finished?’
‘Do you want me to be a parasite?’
The you and the aggression were the trigger, she saw the familiar battlefield ahead. Just give him the money, give him the purse and say take it. Everything. Just what he wanted.
She took a deep breath. ‘I want you to manage on your pocket money. Eight hundred rand a month is . . .’
‘Do you know how much Jacques gets?’
‘It doesn’t matter, Barend. If you want more you should . . .’
‘Do you want me to lose all my friends? You don’t want me to be fucking happy.’ The swearword shook her, along with the clatter of the sugar bowl lid that he threw against the cupboard.
‘Barend,’ she said, shocked. He had exploded before, thrown his hands in the air, stormed out. He had used Jesus and God, he had mumbled the unmentionable, cowardly and just out of hearing. But not this time. Now his whole torso leaned over the counter, now his face was filled with disgust for her. ‘You make me sick,’ he said.
She cringed, experiencing the attack physically, so that she had to reach for support, stretch out her hand to the cupboard. She did not want to cry, but the tears came anyway, there in front of the stove with a wooden spoon in her hand and the odour of hot olive oil in her nose. She repeated her son’s name, softly and soothingly.
With venom, with disgust, with the intent to cause bodily harm, with his father’s voice and inflection and abuse of power, Barend slumped back on the stool and said, ‘Jesus, you are pathetic. No wonder your husband fucks around.’
The member of the oversight committee, glass in hand, beckoned to Janina Mentz. She stood still and waited for him to navigate a path to her. ‘Madam Director,’ he greeted her. Then he leaned over conspiratorially, his mouth close to her ear: ‘Did you hear?’
They were in the middle of a banqueting hall, surrounded by four hundred people. She shook her head, expecting the usual, the latest minor scandal of the week.
‘The Minister is considering an amalgamation.’
‘Which Minister?’
Your Minister.’
‘An amalgamation?’
‘A superstructure. You, the National Intelligence Agency, the Secret Service, everyone. A consolidation, a union. Complete integration.’ She looked at him, at his full-moon face, shiny with the glow of alcohol, looking for signs of humour. She found none.
‘Come on,’ she said. How sober was he?
‘That’s the rumour. The word on the street.’
‘How many glasses have you had?’ Light-hearted.
‘Janina, I am deadly serious.’
She knew he was informed, had always been reliable. She hid her concern out of habit. ‘And does the rumour say when?’
‘The announcement will come. Three, four weeks. But that’s not the big news.’
‘The President wants Mo. As chief.’
She frowned at him.
‘Mo Shaik,’ he said.
She laughed, short and sceptical.
‘Word on the street,’ he said solemnly.
She smiled, wanted to ask about his source, but her cellphone rang inside her small black handbag. ‘Excuse me,’ she said, unclipping the handbag and taking out her phone. It was the Advocate, she saw.
‘Tau?’ she answered.
‘Ismail Mohammed is in from the cold.’
Milla lay on her side in the dark, knees tucked up to her chest. Beyond weeping she made reluctant, painful discoveries. It seemed as though the grey glass, the tinted window between her and reality, was shattered, so that she saw her existence brilliantly exposed, and she could not look away.
When she could no longer stand it, she took refuge in questions, in retracing. How had she come to this? How had she lost consciousness, sunk so deep? When? How had this lie, this fantasy life, overtaken her? Every answer brought greater fear of the inevitable, the absolute knowledge of what she must do. And for that she did not have the courage. Not even the words. She, who had always had words, in her head, in her diary, for everything.
She lay like that until Christo came home, at half past twelve that night. He didn’t try to be quiet. His unsteady footsteps were muffled on the carpet, he switched on the bathroom light, then came back and sat down heavily on the bed.
She lay motionless, with her back to him, her eyes closed, listening to him pulling off his shoes, tossing them aside, getting up to go to the bathroom, urinating, farting.
Shower, please. Wash your sins away.
Running water in the basin. Then the light went off, he came to bed, climbed in. Grunted, tired, content.
Just before he pulled the blankets over himself, she smelled him. The alcohol. Cigarette smoke, sweat. And the other, more primitive smell.
That’s when she found the courage.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Meet the Author

Deon Meyer is an internationally acclaimed, prize-winning author of seven crime novels, including Heart of the Hunter, Dead at Daybreak, and Blood Safari. His books have been translated into twenty languages. He lives on the western coast of South Africa.

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Trackers 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 2009 in South Africa, Presidential Intelligence Agency Director Janina Mentz fears the persistent rumors that her agency will be eliminated by placing it inside the national intelligence. Not wanting to lose her position of stature or PIA's professional mission to bureaucrats, Mentz believes her units work on Islamic terrorist activity will save the agency's independence and subsequently her job. Mentz hires fortyish Milla Strachan who left her family to conduct research; the suburban housewife and mom has a lover that her employer and the CIA want to question. Lemmer the bodyguard (see Blood Safari) battles gangs while smuggling valuable rare black rhinos out of Zimbabwe. At the same time former cop Mat Joubert (see Dead Before Dying) investigates a missing husband case. All come together in a case of trouble. This is an excellent South African thriller that brings to life the country and to a degree Zimbabwe. The story line is action-packed and fast-paced, but the stunner is how cleverly Deon Meyers merges his seemingly diverse subplots into a taut tale. With a strong cast, Trackers is a winner. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Terrible book. Tracking what?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Now I have to read other Deon Meyer books.
RplusR More than 1 year ago
Mixed opinion The book has three distinct threads each with its own main character. The book opens as a spy thriller focusing on what had been an undistinguished housewife getting herself mixed up in a high stakes espinoge plot. (Somewhat akin to Hitchock having an ordinary person suddenly finding him/herself involved in a game of international intrigue.) Meyer interupts this plot line with a second about a street wise tough who is hired by a somewhat mysterious character to guard the transport of a pair of endangered black rhinos to his ranch. After returning to the first plot line, Meyer then changes course again and end the book with a narrative about a recently retired police investigator on his first case working for a private investigative firm. He is assigned to a case in which a woman is trying to learn how and why her husband suddenly disappeared. What unites the book is that all three plot lines, in some way, involve "trackers." Each story is in itself interesting, often intense. The individual stories each become page turners. The negative is that the three plot lines only tie together very loosely, even at the end. (There are actually two mysteries in the final plot line: (1) What happened to the woman's husband and (2) what does any of this have to do with the rest of the book?) While I enjoyed each section of the book, personally I would have preferred a bit more total unity. The book is still very much a fun read, but I also was left with a bit of a disappointed feeling at the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
maggy1122 More than 1 year ago
Found it less about tracking and more about the story which I did not find to be that interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
booknookery More than 1 year ago
Didnt live up to the hype. Not terrible. Jusr okay.
dchambersig More than 1 year ago
Easy to read and kept my interest but the two plot lines seem to be disconnected. Haven't finished reading this book. I've been looking for the plot line in the first half of the book to be resolved. Maybe it will be in the final 100 pages but I keep wondering if and when the author will get back to it and it has distracted me from totally focusing on the second half of the book.