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Book Author: Deon Meyer

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.


ICARUS by Deon Meyer: Book Review

Until reading Icarus, my main exposure to the South African mystery genre was through the wonderful novels of James McClure that featured the interracial police duo of Tromp Kramer and Mickey Zondi.  I took it as a personal loss when the series, which was not long enough in my opinion, ended more than twenty years ago.  But now I have a new South African author to follow.

Deon Meyer is very well-known in his home country but was unknown to me until I picked up his latest mystery.  If all his books are as brilliant as this one, I’ve really been missing out.

South Africa has obviously changed a great deal since the official end of apartheid in 1994.  Now the Cape Town police department is totally integrated, with men and women who are white, black, and coloured, the latter meaning people of mixed-race ancestry.   In Icarus, the two main characters are Captain Benny Griessel, who is white, and Vaughn Cupido, who is coloured; the two make the most professional team in the South African Priority Crimes Investigation unit.  There is a problem, however, that hangs over them.  Benny Griessel is a recovering alcoholic and on the verge of relapse after more than two years of sobriety.

The reason for his return to drinking is explained at the beginning of the novel.  His close friend and former colleague, Vollie Fish, has just murdered his wife and two daughters and then turned his gun on himself.  Benny understands only too well the reason for the murders and suicide, a reason that he’s afraid one day might cause him to do something similar.  That is what made Benny, nicknamed Benna, turn into the Fireman’s Arms and order, in quick succession, six double whiskies.  He drinks to kill the fear that never leaves him.

The body of social media magnate Ernst Richter has been found, more than a month after his disappearance.  Ernst was the founder and director of, an internet company that arranges alibis for people involved in extra-marital or illicit affairs.  The company can create forged airline tickets, receipts for rooms at conferences the clients were supposed to have attended, restaurant checks for alleged business dinners–you get the idea.’s slogan is All pleasure.  No stress.  Not too subtle, but it attracted thousands of people eager to find a way to have their cake and eat it too.

Interspersed with the chapters following Benna and the department’s search for Ernst’s killer, there are chapters detailing the conversations of advocate Susan Peires and her latest client, François du Toit.  François is the fourth generation in his family to control a vineyard, the Klein Zegen Estate in Stellenbosch, in a town in the Western Cape Province of the country.  Although the lawyer is eager to get the details of why François wants to hire her, he tells her he must start at the beginning so that she’ll understand everything that led up to where he is today.  And that means a family saga of four generations of the du Toits.

Deon Meyer shifts his focus between Benna, the search for Ernst’s murderer, and the history of the wine farm.  They all connect in the end, but it’s the deft unraveling of the threads that connect them that makes Icarus such a great read.  When I got to the last pages I was figuratively holding my breath, waiting to see how it would all be resolved.

You can read more about Deon Meyer at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.