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Devil's Peak by Deon Meyer (2004)


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Devil’s Peak by Deon Meyer is an excellent thriller. Set in South Africa, I found the book got off to a slow start with three separate narrators, a young woman making a confession to a minister, a distraught man deciding on revenge after his son is shot in a robbery, and a drunken police detective who is on the edge of losing everything to the drink. It took awhile for me to keep the voices separate and around the time I finally did, this part of the book was over and the next part was straight forward story told mostly from the police detective’s viewpoint. I knew these three narrations would converge and when they did, the story popped and took off on a roller coaster ride.

This is the first of a series featuring DI Benny Griessel and I can tell you that I will be on the look out for the rest of this series. The author pushes all the right buttons and delivers a first class thriller. One note of warning however, between the assegai wielding vigilante and the Columbian drug kingpins, this story holds a great deal of violence and so may be a little too dark for some readers. However, if you like your crime to be in-your-face and somewhat bloody, with a sharp and perceptive storyline this South African crime series may be of some interest to you. ( )
2 vote DeltaQueen50 | Dec 12, 2014 |
First of a series taking place in South Africa. A struggling alcoholic detective is on the trail of a serial killer who targets child abusers. Bad enough his life is a mess, and he’s fighting off the draw of the booze, but then suddenly the search gets personal.
Quite good for a first in series. I’ll try to continue this one.

Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of struggling alcoholic cops, but the setting and cultural aspects of this were intriguing and different. ( )
  majkia | Dec 7, 2014 |
Had I known this was the first book in the Bennie Griessel-series, I would have started reading this one. In the following books I missed Griessel's background, that was explained in this one. Now question marks have disappeared and gaps have been filled.

The style of writing, with the sudden, often every alinea, changes of character and hence of scenery, is still annoying me. I get confused, lose track of where the story is and I don't like that.

Apart from that, the story the book tells is a good one, with an ending I had not expexted. ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Aug 11, 2014 |
Deon Meyer has been on my list of authors to read for quite a long time now, and I chose to start with Devil’s Peak because it’s the first of the Benny Griessel series. It does feature a character from an earlier novel in a central role, so my plans to be unspoiled by starting with this book were foiled. I was very impressed with the beginning: the writing was good, the characters were very complicated, but by the end I was disappointed with the plot.

Griessel is an inspector leading an investigation into the murders of people accused of hurting children. He’s an alcoholic policeman with marital troubles, which is a story I’ve read before, but his experience as a policeman both before and after apartheid and the differences in those organizations (it was the Force during apartheid and the Service after) made the novel stand out to me. Meyer divides the story among Griessel the investigator, Tiny Mpayipheli the killer, and a young woman who is a sex worker who is making some sort of confession to a minister.

It’s an interesting structure with interesting characters, but a couple things bothered me: First, it’s a vigilante story. I’m not very interested in this theme (I’m almost as tired of vigilantes as I am of serial killers) even though this book features the twist that there is a vigilante in a country that recently abolished the death penalty. Second, the final fifty pages falter plot-wise. It features a plot twist that I see all too often in thrillers (I’m trying to avoid spoilers), and the last batch of antagonists is a very cruel and violent crew who aren’t really developed as characters.

I saw a lot of promise in the first half of the book, and I hope that other Meyer books don’t use such overused plots.
  rkreish | Aug 10, 2014 |
In present-day South Africa three stories unfold in parallel . Christine explains to a patient Minister what led to her becoming a prostitute while Benny, an alcoholic police officer, has one last-ditch attempt to salvage his marriage and career. At the same time Thobela, a former freedom-fighter, is devastated when his adopted son is killed as an innocent bystander to a robbery and he turns to a life of vengeance.

This book reminded me of Peter Temple's The Broken Shore. Although they're set on different continents both books stretch the boundaries of traditional crime fiction and use the genre to demonstrate wider social issues in an understated way. And, like Temple, Meyer paints the most spectacular pictures with often only a handful of words, as with the sentence

"Beyond George the houses of the wealthy sat like fat ticks against the dunes, silently competing for a better sea view".

The book is littered with such startlingly clear images that make it easy to visualise the people never met and the places never visited.

At the beginning of the book I almost groaned audibly at the thought of yet another drunken copper (I've lost count of how many I've met over the years) but Meyer's depiction of the alcoholic's constant struggle with his demons is the most eloquently heart-wrenching character development I've read in a long time and I was soon internally cheering Benny's day-by-day efforts along. In fact Meyer takes his time, and ours, establishing all three characters and their separate, but ultimately linked stories. In a lesser writer's hands this would be annoying but here provides a solid foundation for what otherwise could be an unbelievable or far-fetched climax. Instead the stories are tantalisingly built to their inevitable but gripping combination and resolution.

While I won't pretend that one book can give a definitive view of such a mammoth thing as post-apartheid South Africa I think a good book can provide a valid snapshot of a time and place that helps define the bigger picture. All three characters struggle with details of 'the new South Africa' in very real ways that made me think more deeply than I've done before about what the removal of the apartheid system might have been like to live through from a variety of perspectives.

I learned since reading this book that while not strictly part of a series there are other books featuring some of these characters however I didn't once have the sense I was missing something by not having read anything else by this author. The book works entirely as a suspense-filled standalone novel which is haunting, unpredictable and utterly absorbing. ( )
  bsquaredinoz | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 031601785X, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:23 -0400)

In the aftermath of a gruesome child abuse case that has caught the attention of the media, Inspector Benny Griessel struggles to maintain his sobriety in order to bring down a vigilante killer who has won the sympathy of the public.

(summary from another edition)

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