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THE DARK FLOOD by Deon Meyer: Book Review

The corruption in South Africa has spread from the president down, and it nearly ends up costing Detectives Benny Griessel and Vaughn Cupido their jobs. 

As punishment for a botched raid that was not their fault, they are removed from the prestigious Hawks section of the police and demoted, about to be sent (or sentenced) to Lainsburgh, where the major crimes are drunken brawls and petty thefts.  It’s a far cry from the homicides the two have made their reputations solving in Cape Town.

However, at the last moment they are given a reprieve and, without explanation, they are sent instead to Stellenbosch, an upscale university town facetiously referred to as Volvoville.  Although it’s not Cape Town, neither is it Lainsburgh, so Griessel and Vaughn are greatly relieved that they can put their investigative talents to use.

Shortly after they arrive in the city they meet Annemarie de Bruin, the mother of a college student who is missing.  Callie always returns her calls, she tells Benny and Vaughn, but she’s been unable to reach him for three days.  He’s an outstanding computer student on a scholarship, and he’s extremely conscientious about his work, well aware that his future is dependent on his success in college.  But now he’s not answering his phone, and she’s desperate.

In Stellenbosch, real estate agent Sandra Steenberg is on the verge of financial ruin.  Her twins’ day care center warns her that their tuition payment is four months overdue, and their house is on the brink of being taken over by the bank.

The South African economy has tanked, no one is buying or selling houses, and Sandra is desperately trying to keep all this bad news from her husband Josef so he can continue working on the book that he hopes will bring him tenure at the university.  Unless the market picks up, the only way to salvage things would be to ask for financial help from Josef’s wealthy parents, something Sandra is determined not to do.

Then, almost miraculously, her situation takes a 180 degree turn.  Sandra receives a call from Jasper Boonstra, South Africa’s most infamous billionaire.  He wants to sell Donderdrif, one of his wine-producing estates, and he will allow only Sandra to have the listing.  It’s common knowledge throughout the country that he is the biggest corporate swindler in South Africa, as clever as he is crooked.  He hasn’t been charged yet, but it appears that the net around him may be tightening.

However, Boonstra still has property to sell, and he offers Sandra this exclusive listing if she signs a confidentiality agreement.  The property appears to be owned by a German company but apparently Boonstra controls it, and he’s aware of just how badly Sandra needs this commission.  Appalled by his lecherous behavior toward her and his financial misdealings, she would dearly like to tell him to find another agency.  But she can’t afford to do that.  “She simply could not walk away from this.”

Deon Meyer takes the reader from one high-tension situation in Stellenbosch to another.  Government corruption, a missing student, and an unsavory businessman all combine to make Benny and Vaughn’s introduction to the city more complicated and dangerous than they ever had imagined.

The detectives are dealing not only with their official cases but issues in their private lives as well.  Deon Meyer’s outstanding writing makes Benny and Vaughn two of the most believable and human characters around.  You can read more about the author at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.


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