From rising South African thriller writer Deon Meyer, a gripping suspense novel about revenge, forgiveness, and the race to catch a trained killer. A young woman makes a terrible confession to a priest. An honorable man takes his own revenge for an unspeakable tragedy. An aging inspector tries to get himself sober while taking on the most difficult case of his career. From this beginning, Deon Meyer weaves a story of astonishing complexity and suspense, as Inspector Benny Griessel faces off against a dangerous vigilante who has everything on his side, including public sympathy.
A gruesome abuse case has hit the newsstands, and one man has taken it upon himself to stand up for the children of Cape Town. When the accused is found stabbed through the heart by spear, it's only the beginning of a string of bloody murders - and of a dangerous dilemma for detective Griessel. The detective is always just one step behind as someone slays the city's killers. But the paths of Griessel and the avenger collide when a young prostitute lures them both into a dangerous plan - and the two find themselves with a heart-stopping problem that no system of justice could ever make right.
About the Author
Deon Meyer is an internationally renowned crime writer who also works as a journalist and an Internet consultant. He is the author of Heart of the Hunter, Dead at Daybreak, and Dead Before Dying. He lives in Cape Town, South Africa.
Read an Excerpt
By Deon Meyer Little, Brown and Company
Copyright © 2008
All right reserved.
Chapter One The moment before the clergyman folded back the carton flaps the world stood still and she saw everything with a greater clarity. The robust man in his middle years had a diamond-shaped birthmark on his cheek that looked like a distorted pale rose teardrop. His face was angular and strong, his thinning hair combed back, his hands massive and rough, like those of a boxer. The books behind him covered the whole wall in a mosaic of alternating colors. The late afternoon Free State sun threw a shaft of light onto the desktop, a magic sunbeam across the box.
She pressed her hands lightly against the coolness of her bare knees. Her hands were perspiring, her eyes searching for clues in the slightest shift of his expression, but she saw only calm, perhaps some suppressed, benign curiosity about the content of the carton. In the moment before he lifted the flaps, she tried to see herself as he saw her-evaluate the impression she was trying to create. The shops in town had been no help; she had to use what she had. Her hair was long, straight and clean, the multicolored blouse sleeveless; a shade too tight, perhaps, for this occasion, for him? A white skirt that had shifted up to just above her knees as she sat down. Her legs were smooth and lovely. White sandals. Little gold buckles. Her toenails unpainted, of that she had made sure. Just a single ring, a thin gold band on her right hand. Her make-up was light, delicately downplaying the fullness of her mouth.
Nothing to betray her. Apart from her eyes and her voice.
He lifted the flaps, one after the other, and she realized she was sitting on the edge of the armchair, leaning forward. She wanted to lean back, but not now, she must wait for his reaction.
The last flap was folded back, the box open.
"Liewe Genade," he said in Afrikaans and half rose to his feet. Sweet Mercy.
He looked at her, but he seemed not to see her and his attention returned to the contents of the box. He thrust one of his big hands in, took something out and held it up to the sun.
"Sweet mercy," he repeated with his hands in front of him. His fingers felt for authenticity.
She sat motionless. She knew his reaction would determine everything. Her heart thumped, she could even hear it.
He replaced the object in the carton, retracted his hands, leaving the flaps open. He sat again, taking a deep breath as if he wanted to compose himself and then looked up at her. What was he thinking? What?
Then he pushed the carton to one side, as if he didn't want it to come between them.
"I saw you yesterday. In church."
She nodded. She had been there-to take his measure. To see if she would be recognized. But it was impossible, since she had attracted so much attention anyway-a strange young woman in a small town church. He preached well, with compassion, with love in his voice, not so dramatic and formal as the ministers of her youth. When she walked out of the church she was certain it was right to come here. But now she wasn't so sure ... He seemed upset.
"I ..." she said, her thoughts scrambling for the right words.
He leaned towards her. He needed an explanation; that she well understood. His arms and hands made a straight line on the edge of the desk, from elbow to interlinked fingers flat on the desk. He was wearing a formal shirt unbuttoned at the neck, light blue with a faint red stripe. His sleeves were rolled up, forearms hairy where the sun caught them. From outside came the sounds of a weekday afternoon in a small town-the Sotho people greeting one another across the breadth of the street, the municipal tractor accelerating duh-duh-duh up to the garage, the cicadas, the clanging beat of a hammer alternating with the mindless barking of two dogs.
"There's a lot I have to tell you," she said, and her voice sounded small and lost.
At last he moved, his hands folded open.
"I hardly know where to start."
"Begin at the beginning," he said softly, and she was grateful for the empathy.
"The beginning," she approved, voice gaining strength. Her fingers gathered the long blonde hair from where it hung over her shoulder and tossed it back with a rhythmic, practiced motion.
Chapter Two It began for Thobela Mpayipheli late on a Saturday afternoon at a filling station in Cathcart.
Pakamile was seated beside him, eight years old, bored and tired. The long road from Amersfoort lay behind them, seven dreary hours of driving. When they turned in at the garage the child sighed. "Still sixty kilometers?"
"Only sixty kilometers," he said consolingly. "Do you want a cold drink?"
"No thanks," said the boy and lifted up the 500-ml Coca Cola bottle that had been lying at his feet. It was not yet empty.
Thobela stopped at the pumps and climbed out of the pickup. There was no attendant in sight. He stretched his limbs, a big black man in jeans, red shirt and running shoes. He walked around his vehicle, checked that the motorbikes on the load bed were still firmly strapped down-Pakamile's little KX 65 and his big BMW. They had been learning to ride off-road that weekend, an official course through sand and gravel, water, hills, humps, gullies and valleys. He had seen the boy's self-confidence grow with every hour, the enthusiasm that glowed within him like an ember with every "Look, Thobela, watch me!"
His son ...
Where were the petrol attendants?
There was another car at the pumps, a white Polo-the engine idled, but there was no one in the car. Strange. He called out, "Hello!" and saw movement in the building. They must be coming now.
He turned around to unlatch the pickup bonnet, glancing at the western horizon where the sun was going down ... soon it would be dark. Then he heard the first shot. It reverberated through the quiet of the early evening and he jumped in fright and dropped instinctively to his haunches. "Pakamile!" he screamed. "Get down!" But his last words were deafened by another shot, and another, and he saw them coming out of the door-two of them, pistols in hand, one carrying a white plastic bag, eyes wild. They spotted him, shot. Bullets slammed against the pump, against the pickup.
He shouted, a guttural roar, leapt up, jerked open the pickup door and dived in, trying to shield the boy from the bullets. He felt the little body shiver. "Okay," he said, and heard the shots and the lead whining over them. He heard one car door slam, then another and screeching tires. He looked up? the Polo was moving towards the road. Another shot. The glass of an advertising display above him shattered and rained down on the pickup. Then they were in the road, the Volkswagen's engine revving too high and he said, "It's okay, okay," and felt the wet on his hand and Pakamile had stopped shivering and he saw the blood on the child's body and he said: "No, God, no."
That is where it began for Thobela Mpayipheli.
He sat in the boy's room, on his bed. The document in his hand was his last remaining proof.
The house was as quiet as the grave, for the first time since he could remember. Two years ago Pakamile and he had pushed open the door and looked at the dusty interior, the empty rooms. Some of the light fittings were hanging askew from the ceiling, kitchen cupboard doors were broken or just ajar, but all they saw was potential, the possibilities of their new house overlooking the Cata River and the green fields of the farm in high summer. The boy had run through the house leaving footprints in the dust. "This is my room, Thobela," he had called down the passage. When he reached the master bedroom he had expressed his awe at the vast space in a long whistle. Because all he knew was a cramped four-room house in the Cape Flats.
That first night they slept on the big verandah. First they had watched the sun disappear behind the storm clouds and the twilight deepen over the yard, watched the shadows of the big trees near the gate blend with the darkness, and the stars magically open their silver eyes in the firmament. He and the boy, squeezed up against each other with their backs against the wall.
"This is a wonderful place, Thobela."
There was a deep sense of comfort in Pakamile's sigh and Thobela was eternally relieved, because it was only a month since the boy's mother had died and he had not known how they would adjust to the change of environment and circumstance.
They spoke of the cattle they would buy, a milk cow or two, a few fowls ("... and a dog, Thobela, please, a big old dog"). A vegetable garden at the back door. A patch of lucerne down by the riverbank. They had dreamed their dreams that night until Pakamile's head had dropped against his shoulder and he had laid the boy down softly on the bedding on the floor. He had kissed him on the forehead and said, "Good night, my son."
Pakamile was not of his own blood. The son of the woman he had loved, the boy had become his own. Very quickly he had come to love the boy like his own flesh and blood, and in the months since they had moved here he had begun the long process of making it official-writing letters, filling in forms and being interviewed. Slow bureaucrats with strange agendas had to decide whether he was suitable to be a parent, when the whole world could see that the bond between them had become unbreakable. But, at last, after fourteen months, the registered documents had arrived; in the long-winded, clumsy language of state officialdom, these put the seal on his adoption.
And now these pages of yellow-white paper were all he had. These, and a heap of new ground under the pepper trees by the river. And the minister's words, meant to comfort: "God has a purpose with everything."
Lord, he missed the boy.
He could not accept that he would never hear that chuckling laugh again. Or the footsteps down the passage. Never slow, always in a rush, as if life were too short for walking. Or the boy calling his name from the front door, voice loaded with excitement over some new discovery. Impossible to accept that he would never feel Pakamile's arms around him again. That, more than anything-the contact, the absolute acceptance, the unconditional love.
It was his fault.
There was never an hour of the day or night that he did not relive the events at the garage with the fine-tooth comb of selfreproach. He should have realized, when he saw the empty Polo idling at the pumps. He should have reacted more swiftly when he heard the first shot, he should have thrown himself over the child then, he should have been a shield, he should have taken the bullet. He should. It was his fault.
The loss was like a heavy stone in him, an unbearable burden. What would he do now? How would he live? He could not even see tomorrow, neither the sense nor the possibility. The phone rang in the sitting room, but he did not want to get up? he wanted to stay here with Pakamile's things.
He moved sluggishly, feeling the emotion pressing against him. Why could he not weep? The telephone rang. Why would the grief not break out?
Inexplicably, he was standing with the instrument in his hand and the voice said: "Mr. Mpayipheli?" and he said: "Yes."
"We've got them, Mr. Mpayipheli. We've caught them. We want you to come and identify them."
Later he unlocked the safe and placed the document carefully on the topmost shelf. Then he reached for his firearms, three of them: Pakamile's airgun, the .22 and the hunting rifle. He took the longest one and walked to the kitchen.
As he cleaned it with methodical concentration he slowly became aware that guilt and loss were not all that lay within him.
"I wonder if he believed," she said, the minister's full attention on her now. His eyes no longer strayed to the box.
"Unlike me." The reference to herself was unplanned and she wondered for a moment why she said it. "Maybe he didn't go to church or such, but he might have believed. And perhaps he could not understand why the Lord gave to him and then took away. First his wife, and then his child on the farm. He thought he was being punished. I wonder why that is? Why we all think that when something bad happens? I do too. It's weird. I just could never work out what I was being punished for."
"As an unbeliever?" asked the minister.
She shrugged. "Yes. Isn't it strange? It's like the guilt is here inside us. Sometimes I wonder if we are being punished for the things we are going to do in the future. Because my sins only came later, after I was punished."
The minister shook his head and took a breath as if to answer, but she didn't want to be sidetracked now; didn't want to break the rhythm of her story.
They were out of reach. There were eight men behind the oneway glass, but he could only focus on the two for whom his hate burned. They were young and devil-may-care, their mouths stretched in the same "so-what" smirks, their eyes staring a challenge at the window. For a moment he considered the possibility of saying he recognized none of them and then waiting outside the police station with the hunting rifle ... But he wasn't prepared, hadn't studied the exits and streets outside. He lifted his finger like a rifle barrel and said to the superintendent: "There they are, numbers three and five." He did not recognize the sound of his own voice; they were the words of a stranger.
"You are sure?"
"Dead sure," he said.
"Three and five?"
"Three and five."
"That's what we thought."
They asked him to sign a statement. Then there was nothing more he could do. He walked to his pickup, unlocked the door and got in, conscious of the rifle behind the seat and the two men somewhere inside the building. He sat and wondered what the superintendent would do if he asked for a few moments alone with them, because he felt the compulsion to thrust a long blade into their hearts. His eyes lingered a moment on the front door of the police station and then he turned the key and drove slowly away.
Excerpted from Devil's Peak by Deon Meyer Copyright © 2008 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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Just an all around great book. The story jumps between different characters who are all connected by a brutal crime and the revenge of said crime. I can't wait to read something else by Meyer. Highly recommended.
I read 13 Hours before I realized that it was the second book in the Benny Griessel series and I'm actually glad I read it first, because had I read Devil's Peak, I might not have continued with the series. One of the things that turned me off of Wallander was the first book of the series and the way Wallander behaved. Because I already knew where Griessel was going, I was able to handle the alcoholism/violence/etc (unlike in Wallander). Meyer is an excellent writer and you feel for Griessel when his wife kicks him out, his pains with trying to quit but you also don't want him to give in. In spite of everything, I really enjoy Griessel's story, along with Meyer's ability to write about race without it seeming fake or just there to further the story along. Because the book is set in South Africa, race is integral to the lives of the people who live there -- and to Meyer's writing. I can't wait to read the third book in this series.
Those who enjoy crime fiction will find this to be a terrific read. The novel pulls together three principal characters and story lines. The characters are well developed and the plot lines very believable. This is an author whose work grabs you and makes you want to read other books in the series.
3 1/2 stars completed 6/2/11. I had read Blood Safari by Meyer and enjoyed it a lot more. That story was more riveting with a higher level of tension throughout, and the fact that book included a black mamba didn't hurt either. DP starts slowly, very slowly. There are three or four story lines running in parallel, but then one finally gets resolved. The others continue.....I had difficulty with the chronology, since one was being revealed as a confession of sorts. But finally Meyer delivers, and from the 2/3rd point of the book you don't want to put it down. Justice is ultimately dispensed, in a very South African way, and the ending is satisfactory but a bit sad from at least one perspective. The cop with the drinking problem is treated a bit different than the run of the mill - the focus here is the hero cop newly on the wagon - will he stay on the wagon? Bottomline, the characters and final 1/3 are good enough to bring me back for the next one (13 Hours), but just barely.
Three narrators weave a story - Bennie Griessel, a detective whose alcoholism is in danger of making him a "has been"; Thobela Mpayipheli, former KGB sniper, whose personal loss has turned him into a vigilante and has brought him to wreaking justice when the system failed him; and Christine van Rooyen, the prostitute who becomes entangled with a drug runner and small time crook who is part of an international cartel.For much of the book Christine is telling her story to a minister, sitting in his study, unburdening herself. In the long run all three will have blood on their hands, and all three will have administered their own form of rough justice.The narration often slides imperceptibly from Christine's story to that of Bennie or Thobela, and it comes as a surprise to the reader (or in my case the listener) that you have made that transition. In the long run I was never quite sure whose eyes I was seeing the world through.There are some wonderfully drawn characters in this story, and the three threads are beautifully layered.Saul Reichlin's voice (the reader) was really the only thing that reminded me that this novel was originally written in Afrikaans.I haven't read any Deon Myer titles before, but Thobela has apparently appeared in an earlier book (HEART OF THE HUNTER), and Bennie was a minor character in DEAD BEFORE DYING. One thing is sure, I will be looking for further titles.
Deon Meyer is an exciting, new South African author who brings Cape Town to vivid life in all it's beauty and squalor. This thriller deals with a vigilante who targets murderers and rapists of children and the on-the-wagon detective that slowly catches up with him. GZ