26 February 2024

Of Wild Dogs, and South African crime novels

Of Wild Dogs (Fiction Africa)Of Wild Dogs by Jane Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An above-average crime novel set, like so many South African crime novels, in Cape Town, which, in the case of this one, leads to one of its chief weaknesses -- that though the focus of the story does at some points move out of Cape Town to Limpopo province, the story at those points becomes blurred and sketchy, lacking in the detail that makes it interesting at other points.

In the story Ewan Christopher, a British journalist, travels to Cape Town to meet an old flame, Hannah Viljoen, whom he had met when she was in exile in England. Hannah is working as an artist in a museum, but Christopher arrives to find she has just died, and murder is suspected. He befriends Helena de Villiers, the pathologist, and Cicero Matyobeni, the detective investigating the case, which becomes more complex and involved the more they investigate it.

There are some nice descriptive passages, one that caught my fancy being
Helena's father had marked his European cast of mind by marrying Athena Papandreas, a dark beauty who caught his imagination when he first saw her, in a ruched fuschia-pink bathing suit and floral swimming cap, bobbing like a frosted tea-cake upon the contained tide at St James

I suppose it all depends on how you like your crime novels. Those who like them "gritty" might find a "floral swimming cap bobbing like a frosted tea cake" a bit flowery for their taste. but I found it all added to the local flavour, as did the mention of "varsity", which even now in South Africa has not yet been superseded by the Australian & Brit "uni".

If it weren't for the skimping on the Limpopo bits, especially towards the end, I'd have given it five stars. Chapters 30-36 look like rough drafts that the author meant to complete later. But it's still worth reading. 

View all my reviews

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails