A tale of past and present South Africa that exposes the dark underbelly of the country’s history.
Now that his downward spiral into drink and drugs has ruined his marriage, veteran mixed-race police detective Eberard Februarie, deeply depressed, has transferred to the little city of Stellenbosch, hoping at least to salvage his career. Eberard must visit a counselor regularly in order to keep his position. When Melanie Du Preez, a young white woman, is found floating in the river, he gets the case. A massive blow to the head would have killed her had she not drowned. She may have been raped as well. Melanie’s father is a respected law lecturer at the university whose arrogant, outspoken support for protecting Afrikaans culture has ruffled some feathers. Apartheid may be over, but racism still runs rampant. Eberard’s partner, bright young Constable Xoliswa Nduku, wants to make a career for herself in the police force. Their search discloses a scrapbook of nursery rhymes Melanie kept, with some of the later items torn out. As they look into her background, they find that she’s visited a club featuring alcohol, drugs and loud music with sexual undertones. Eberard arrests the bouncer, a Burundian in the country illegally, who’s been seen with Melanie. But before he can be questioned, the professor comes to the jail pretending to be his lawyer and shoots him. Although the Burundian’s semen has been found in Melanie, the club owner pushes a reluctant Eberard, who is sinking back into his old ways, to continue his investigation. With Nduku’s encouragement, he turns up some deeply disturbing possibilities.
Brown (Solace, 2012, etc.) has cleverly and ironically woven a second narrative of the cruel past into the present. The mystery takes a back seat in this beautifully crafted scenario of hatred, intolerance and courage.