Christmas. A time of peace, joy, and love.
But not in the Cape of Storms. On 17 December, a freak flood uncovers the body of Ernst Richter in the dunes near Parklands — the Ernst Richter, notorious Internet entrepreneur, owner of the controversial Alibi.co.za. Ernst Richter, who disappeared so mysteriously a month ago.
Nobody wants the case. Not the SAPS in Table View or Stellenbosch, becuase they know trouble when they see it, thank you very much. Media trouble. Manpower trouble. Cold, unsolvable case trouble. And pressure from the top brass, infighting, departmental politics ...
Even under normal circumstances, Benny Griessel and Vaughn Cupido would have had their work cut out for them. Because at Alibi.co.za everybody are lying through their teeth. And the list of people who would have loved to strangle Ernst Richter with their bare hands, is growing every day.
But circumstances are not normal: Benny has fallen off the wagon, and Cupido is in love. With one of the major suspects.
And on 24 Decemeber, a young wine farmer starts confessing to an advocate in Cape Town, turning the whole case on its head.
Christmas will never be the same again.
Deon Meyer is not just South Africa's greatest crime writer, he's up there with the best in the world, as Icarus shows. His flawed hero, Benny Griessel, captain of Cape Town's Violent Crimes Unit and a man fighting against alcoholism, is a superb creation; and Meyer paints a brilliant portrait of a country still seeking post-apartheid social and racial balance. A body found buried in sand turns out to be that of the founder of Alibi, a firm providing false evidence and documents to people wishing to mask where they've really been.
South African author Deon Meyer’s Benny Griessel series is one of the high points of contemporary crime fiction, and the fifth title, Icarus (translated from Afrikaans by KL Seegers), is his best yet. Detective Captain Griessel of the Cape Town police is a recovering alcoholic whose sobriety is derailed by the news that a colleague killed his family and then himself. Potentially career-destroying benders and attempts to get back on the wagon punctuate his investigation into the strangling of Ernst Richter, owner of the adultery-facilitating website Alibi. It soon becomes clear that Richter, who wasn’t averse to a spot of blackmail, has not honoured his promise of client confidentiality, and an anonymous Twitter user threatening to reveal the cheaters’ names causes a media frenzy. There’s a parallel narrative involving the troubled family history of winemaker Francois du Toit, but it’s not until the end that the link between these two equally fascinating strands becomes clear in this expertly engineered tales of sex, lies and fraud.
Meyer’s prose is muscular yet beautifully rendered. A meticulously crafted portrait of modern-day South Africa, Icarus is a spellbinding tour de force.
Meyer, who writes in Afrikaans, has long been hailed as South Africa's greatest crime writer. Icarus places him firmly in the top international league. It's the fifth, and best, of the Benny Griessel series ...
Meyer has perfected structure and pace, reveals and red herrings, chapter beats, plot and subplot but he enriches the story with fascinating detail ...
He salts Icarus with Tinder and other social media, and introduces us to “zero-day vulnerabilities”, the hidden back doors in computer software that hackers can use to hijack data. He lays bare the racket of the old KWV, “the narrow-minded, strict, conservative, prescriptive, rule-bound, Broederbond-controlled wine farmer’s co-operative, which at that time was merely an extension of the apartheid government.” He also draws aside the curtain on the international wine trade. In latter books Meyer has deepened his characterisation. Here he brings in a golden boy who is a psychopath and another young man on the autistic spectrum, a brilliant computer programmer who has “social interaction issues”.
Meyer’s writing brought South Africa to life for me again. When I read Cobra, I got a real sense of place and atmosphere. In Icarus it’s even stronger, with vivid pictures of physical locations as well as little character quirks, cultural attitudes and vignettes of detail that add real depth the portrayal of South African life in the novel.
Final verdict – don’t delay, just get it as soon as you can. I’ve even asked Mrs Romancrimeblogger for the earlier Benny Griessel novels for my birthday. Enough said!
Every once in a while there comes along a writer, an already accomplished storyteller, who grows into the stature of a great writer through one wonderful story. That author is Deon Meyer; the story he has masterfully crafted is Icarus. It is an unbelievably fine piece of storytelling, just as much rooted in history and family as it’s setting in the modern world of Internet millionaires…
It has wit, passion, envy, family, courage… it has a little of everything and it will keep you guessing till the very end. The rich ensemble of characters are a pleasure to meet. Above all there is Benny. Benny who is all too vividly human.
South African crime novelist Meyer delivers another expertly crafted thriller that feels exceptionally timely, given its focus on the high-tech and wine industries.
The richness of the characters, especially the multifaceted Benny, elevates this above most contemporary police procedurals.
His books have a richness and specificity that bring South Africa (and crimes committed there) vividly to life ...
Joan Hambidge on FMR:
The novel constantly moves on two levels. And Meyer is able to keep all these balls in the air in this fascinating crime novel
Give Deon Meyer a Bell's!
Elmari Rautenbach in Rapport:
Meyer shows his mastery in the characterisation. And nowehere so as when you see how a character comes to life under his touch.
In ICARUS, the peripheral characters get their turn. There is warmth and depth, but especially sparkle when he turns the now familiar members of the Hawks team into human beings: Bones, the numbers man, Mooiwillem and his touch with women, Lithpel Davids, Uncle Fankie, Vusi taking care of his mother. The Forensic Analysts Thick and Thin - "the Eagles to you Hawks" - who needle everybody like two stand-up comedians.
But above all, this is the story of Vaughn Cupido ... With Benny boozing, he has to take charge of the investigation. And he ponders being alone, and taking responsibility for the first time.
That does not stop him from saying what he has to say (as authentic as all the characters), in his unique way. In an unguarded moment, he tells 'Benna': "The heart of the matter is, I can't be Vaughn the Terrible, if you aren't Benny the Sober. It's like that line in the movies - you complete me." With Benny answering drily: "And now you're going to kiss me."
Cupido and Griessel. What a pair. What a team. Because eventually, people make the story. And these two can hold a candle to the best in the world.