South Africa’s troubled past continues to trouble its present.
On Oct. 21, 1985, a team of the South African Defense Force attacked a group of anti-apartheid activists, leaving most of them dead. Now, 20 years later, Abigail Bukula, who survived the massacre to become a rising star at the Justice Department’s gender desk, learns from Leon Lourens, the SAFD commando who saved her from joining her parents in death, that someone has been taking revenge on the soldiers involved in the raid. Every anniversary of the shameful incident, it seems, has been celebrated by the strangling of another member of the team. With Oct. 21, 2005, only a few days away, Leon fears for his own life, since the only other surviving member of the team, Capt. Marinus van Jaarsveld, has been rotting safely away in prison for refusing to abjure his racism. Who could be killing the killers? Joining forces with prison psychologist Yudel Gordon and his old friend, deputy police commander Freek Jordaan (Closed Circle, 1992, etc.), Abigail fixes her attention on elusive freedom fighter Michael Bishop. She doesn’t know that even after the police have made an arrest, they’ll be helpless to stop the revenge plot from moving forward.
Ebersohn won’t win any prizes as a stylist. His writing is earnest, his plotting is murky and his dialogue is ponderously expository. But his horrors, rooted so closely in history, have a nightmare quality that’s hard to shake.