Oh, what a tangled web those rhinos weave: South African mystery maven Meyers returns with a complex tale of intrigue and mayhem most satisfying.
Lemmer, the taciturn Afrikaner bodyguard whom we last saw in Blood Safari (2009), has a cardinal rule: Don’t get mixed up in things. He might have known better, then, when he allows himself to get caught up in a snarled plot to smuggle black rhinos out of Zimbabwe, where they will be slaughtered so that their horns can go to make human-male-enhancing products for the Asian market. It’s a noble enterprise, but as Lemmer well knows, no good deed goes unpunished, and no sooner does the operation embark than things begin to unravel. Meanwhile, back in South Africa, a 40-something woman named Milla Strachan discovers, finally, that her husband is a right bastard, a “covert racist, bemoaning his lot in front of his son: ‘Now we have to come home to a bloody black.’ ” The bloody black in question would be the maid who now tends to husband and offspring, since Milla has had enough of their abuse and has found a new home—and, more important, a new job working as an analyst for a shadowy government organization. Shift the focus a touch, and players in a cat-and-mouse game of terrorism and counterterrorism enter into the picture: al-Qaeda operatives on one hand, bureaucrats fearful of being made redundant in a downsizing of the post-apartheid security forces on the other. Meyer’s carefully plotted narrative is multilayered and rich in detail, and it’s to his credit that he is able to pull these separate, seemingly unrelated threads into an a-ha conclusion. In the end, it’s about smuggling, killing, and other crimes, but also about the quotidian sins of racism, fear, aloofness, self-interest and mistreatment of others—in short, the ordinary human failings as well as their spectacular transgressions.
A first-rate thriller; a touch slow to get going, but hard to apply the brakes to once it gets rolling.