Sunday, May 3, 2015

MIXED BLOOD by Roger Smith


Set in Cape Town, South Africa, described in the novel as the "rape and murder capital of the world," Mixed Blood brings together an ensemble of disparate characters that all collide after a violent suburban home invasion that ends in bloodshed and cover-up.

This book by Roger Smith, just like his hard-hitting novella that I read last year, Ishmael Toffee, is rough, violent, and not for the faint of heart. If I could describe Smith's writing in one word it would be: "extreme." Not necessarily extreme in its violence but more extreme in its characterization. Almost every character has had the hardest life imaginable, and the villains were absolute monsters. One of the characters is not only a crack whore with a heart of gold who's beaten constantly by her boyfriend, but she was also molested by her father when she was a child, resulting in two abortions, then abandoned by her mother. And the main villain is a fat ass, saved-soul boer with halitosis and hemorrhoids, and also the most corrupt cop you will read about for a while. I couldn't even imagine him solving an actual crime for the greater good. 
Rudi Barnard loved Jesus Christ, gatsbys, and killing people. And out here in the Flats he could feel that love the most.
The characters were always fascinating, but the piling on of "hard times" sometimes felt like Smith was just trying too hard to be edgy. And while sometimes multiple POV's work, here it felt like it took away from really digging deep into some of the characters, especially the fugitive Jack Burn, who has fled the U.S. to hide out in South Africa, and who can be argued as being the main character.

But, superficially, the book really works and Smith really knows how to spin an exciting tale that keeps you riveted. He excels in creating a visceral sense of place in his urban Cape Town, a city that feels like it can never truly escape the horrors of apartheid. The book just pumps with local atmosphere, and there's a real sense of place, similar to what Richard Price and George Pelecanos are able to do in their work. This is definitely worth picking up if you're in the mood for a solid thriller about how the actions of our past one day catches up with all of us. By the end, some characters find redemption and some are sent to meet their mothers, but everyone gets what they deserve.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please be respectful