Tuesday, November 29, 2016

NOWHERE by Roger Smith

A recurring theme in Roger Smith's work is the residue of Apartheid and how the South African people are still affected by those ghosts of the past. That theme is something that you can't avoid when you write in the unflinching way that Smith does about race and class conflict in modern South Africa. The ghosts of Apartheid are always lurking in the background of all of his books, but in this one, his latest, they are brought front and center.

It follows two separate investigations that ultimately connect and collide: in the first, a cop on the outs travels to NĂªrens ("nowhere" in Afrikaans) to arrest a racist, white-power Afrikaaner who's created a white-only outpost in the middle of the Kalahari Desert, and in the second, after the South African President murders his #1 wife with a tribal spear, a decorated, retired cop is blackmailed into conducting a sham-investigation to cover up the murder. These two stories come together in violence and reckoning, in grand Roger Smith fashion.

The characters here are some of his best, including a fascinating and complex "villain" in the fixer Steve Bungu, who is also one of my favorite characters I've read about this year. Former cop Joe Louw is also great, a man tortured by the fact that his unavoidable past has put him in a position where he has to go against his usually unwavering ethics.

The book is also a pleasure to read from a story standpoint as I loved the way Smith meticulously laid all of the groundwork and then revealed layer after layer as the story went on until I realized that there was much more to all of it than I expected, a tale of conspiracy and revenge, of a coming to terms with past legacy in a similar way to Brian Panowich's Bull Mountain from last year.

Smith is such a great storyteller that too many readers are missing out on.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Please be respectful