ICARUS is the latest of Deon Meyer’s intelligent, accessible thrillers set in South Africa, offering his usual mix of local colour and universal themes.
The core mystery involves an investigation into the death of Ernst Richter, a young man whose chief success in life was the creation of a website providing alibis to cheating spouses. This provides an ample suspect pool, especially when it appears that hackers have accessed the firm’s client data and are prepared to release the names of high profile customers.
The investigative thread of the story features Meyer’s recurring characters that make up the Hawks; an elite team within the police force. I like the way Meyer depicts the whole team and its various personalities and doesn’t concentrate entirely on a single detective. In this outing Vaughan Cupido is in charge of the investigation while the usual lead, Benny Griessel, is struggling. At the outset of the novel he is called to a scene where a fellow officer he knows has killed himself and his family. This leads to Griessel losing his sobriety (again) and his investigative focus. I must admit to groaning a bit at this turn of events as I am a bit tired of reading about people battling addiction in the middle of my crime fiction but to be fair Meyer does handle this aspect of his character’s life very realistically.
At the same time as the police investigation is unfolding a local wine farmer is talking to his lawyer and the transcript of that conversation offers some of the story’s twists and turns. At first it is not clear how – or even if – the two threads are connected but the parallel storylines do eventually draw together. Meyer is a master at this complex, multi-pronged approach to storytelling and in ICARUS he proves it once again.
For audio book fans some author/narrator combinations become more than the sum of their parts and for me this is never more true than when Deon Meyer’s writing is paired with Saul Reichlin’s narration. Both bring their particular talents to the art of storytelling and I love that I get to hear all the dialects and idioms Meyer’s books are sprinkled with. At which point I should also mention the excellent translation from Afrikaans by K.L. Seegers who always seems to know just how much of the local language can be left in the text without confusing woefully monolingual readers such as myself. I know we tend to think of writing as a solitary profession but it’s always good to be reminded that the production of a finished novel – especially a good one – is a collaborative effort.
ICARUS is not my absolute favourite of this wonderful series: Benny Griessel falling off the wagon and a smidgen too much exposition about the history of South African wine were my stumbling points. But even when he is ever so slightly off his game Deon Meyer is still a top tier author. The book is fast-paced, packed with terrific characters and topical at both a local and international level. I’m already looking forward to Saul Reichlin reading me the next adventure in this series.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Narrator Saul Reichlin
Translator K.L. Seegers
Publisher Hodder & Stoughton, 2015
Length 13 hours 38 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Book Series #5 in the Benny Griessel series
Source of review copy I bought it
I couldn’t have said it better, Bernadette: even when Meyer isn’t at his stellar best, he’s still heaps better than a lot of other writers. And I always enjoy the really authentic sense of place and culture he includes. This one sounds like an intriguing investigation, too, I like it that Meyer doesn’t lose sight of the main plot threads as he explores the characters.
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I have only read one of Meyers books but I was very impressed with that and I want to read more.
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