A dead woman stripped naked and draped over a stone wall poses vexing problems for Capt. Benny Griessel and Capt. Vaughn Cupido, of Cape Town’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (Icarus, 2015, etc.).
Even before it’s identified, the corpse, bashed to death elsewhere and washed thoroughly with bleach, rings alarm bells for Griessel, whose mind is focused less on his job than on the 22,000 rand he’ll have to borrow if he’s to buy a proper (though pawned and possibly stolen) engagement ring for former singing star Alexa Barnard, who’s plotting a comeback despite the alcoholism she shares with Griessel. Once it becomes known that the victim was Alicia Lewis, an American visitor who took a sabbatical from her job with a London art-recovery company to come to South Africa and was murdered in record time after her arrival, the police are under intense pressure to close the case. Why was the foreign visitor so interested in getting directions to the nondescript town of Villiersdorp? What was she doing that got her killed so quickly after her arrival? And why, in the name of self-preservation and common decency, didn’t her killer take more care to conceal her body instead of displaying it so brazenly that it was immediately spotted by a minibus carrying a dozen horrified workers to jobs in the city? Before these questions are answered, they’ll lead to even more questions about a painting that’s been lost for 350 years and a plot that brings the respectable Alicia Lewis into imprudently close contact with some truly shady characters.
Though it’s light on the critical analysis of race relations that helped make Meyer’s earlier Cape Town mysteries hefty in every sense of the word, this gemlike novella is just the thing for a one-sitting read.