In Deon Meyer’s previous mystery (Thirteen Hours, 2010, etc.), South African detective Benny Griessel had all of one workday to solve a murder. In this follow-up he’s allowed a full week to find the killer of a glamorous lawyer, Hanneke Sloet. And given the number of leads and complications that keep turning up, he needs every minute he can get.
At first, Griessel’s department, a select team known as the Hawks, can find few clues in the Sloet case. And that’s unfortunate, because an elusive sniper is so preoccupied with the case that he’s shooting policemen and sending emails full of Biblical quotes and anti-Communist rhetoric. Stepping up the investigation, the Hawks discover the kinks in the victim’s respectable life: She’d been negotiating a high-finance deal that may have involved the Russian Mafia; and she’d lately done a nude photo shoot after breast-enhancement surgery. Meanwhile, the list of dead and wounded cops piles up, and Griessel has good reason to suspect he might be next. Meyer is good with sexy plot complications, and the mysteries of Sloet’s murder and the sniper’s identity take interesting turns along the way. But the book’s main strength is in its characters; as Griessel’s colleagues include Vaughn Cupido, a hot-blooded “bad cop,” and Mbali Kaleni, a strong policewoman who harbors an embarrassing secret from a recent Amsterdam trip (this too is revealed at book’s end). Griessel himself is no typical action hero: A recovering alcoholic prone to self-doubt, he’s fighting to get over his broken marriage and to build a new relationship with Alexa, a former pop star who’s also in recovery.
Griessel is flawed but likable, and his trials give a bittersweet edge to a strong mystery.