Old reviews in a new blog

Mixed Blood (ISBN 9781848867587 )

A corrupt police officer, a jailbird and an American fugitive find themselves drawn to one another in a story that is violent and brutally honest. It will literally “grip you from page one” as it says on the cover. Smith handles issues of race, the contrasting lifestyles of Cape Town’s bourgeois and the poverty-stricken in modern-day South Africa; and how these intertwine, with such effortlessness and honesty that you find yourself often both shocked and in awe of the characters. This is not a tale for sensitive readers; if you are easily offended and are prone to clutching your pearls, this is not for you. But go on, try it, I dare you not to like it.

Wake up Dead (ISBN 9781846687570)

This story is all about choices. You have to make the right choice under desperate conditions, otherwise you could end up dead. In this second gripping novel, Smith once again intertwines the lives of the “posh” people of Cape Town with the poverty-stricken lives of the people from the Flats. Roger Smith has the unique talent of getting the facts SO right, and using his words like magic to create characters and a storyline so believable that for many in Cape Town, this is a reality. What I liked most about this story is that Smith explores a lifestyle so far away from mine that it is something I can’t even fathom it; yet it is the real-life story of people living only a few kilometers from me. The story carries a heavy sense of irony that leaves you wondering, as the story unfolds, whether any of the characters really had any choice at all.

Roger Smith is now my favourite crime writer. Of all crime writers I have ever read. Sorry Harlan, James and Patricia.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

If a customer had not asked me to try and find this book for her, I would not have known about it. I was instantly attracted to this book by it’s jacket:

The story revolves around Jacob, a 15 (almost 16) year old American boy who describes his life as being particularly UNDERwhelming. The one bright thing in his life is his grandfather, who tells him outrageous, interesting stories about his own childhood, fashioned around a series of old photographs. But as is the way with growing up, Jacob starts believing these tales less and less. When his grandfather dies suddenly and very violently, his last words prompt Jacob to re-think his belief in the “fairytales” he was told as a child and he makes a life-altering decision to find out what the truth is behind his grandfather’s old photographs.

I found this book both fascinating and slightly disturbing. I also had weird dreams after finishing it; I think the fact that the book contains images not only lets your imagination form a picture in your mind but vivid images that stay with you long after you have finished it. The story is fast-paced and rife with emotion, dealing with topics like family relationships and how the past literally will come back to haunt you. The characters are well-formed; Ransom Riggs shapes his characters with individual personalities and backgrounds, so that they are utterly believable. Some parts of it reminded me of Professor X and the X-Men, without being blatantly obvious. All in all I think this was a really good story, considering I am not a great fan of sci-fi/fantasy, and a great debut novel. The book is now making it’s rounds among my friends.

Here is the book trailer for the novel:

Also, some images from the book:

All images are used with the permission of the author

Dust Devils by Roger Smith

 

I have been eagerly anticipating a new novel by my favourite crime/suspense/thriller author, Roger Smith. I just finished Dust Devils (after having to share it with my father or having him steal it from my room so he can get a few chapters in before I steal it back) and I was absolutely not disappointed. I am a great fan of crime fiction but Roger Smith does it like no other author I have ever read. His portrayal of South Africa and it’s contrasts is so honest and provoking, so if you have an idealized perception of this place, after reading this book you will be shocked. I was.

In contrast to his other two novels, which were set in Cape Town, Dust Devils is largely set in Bambatha’s Rock, in the Kwa-Zulu Natal province. The story follows Robert Dell, a journalist who is on the run after being framed for his family’s murder and he turns to his oldest enemy: his own father. In the mix we also have Disaster Zondi (a character who I hope will be featuring in future novels), who is seeking revenge of his own kind.

Roger Smith portrays a vivid picture of the realities of the politics in this new democracy, the attitude of people toward the HIV/AIDS pandemic that has the country in a grip of panic, and the sad and unfortunate ways that some groups still have of dealing with it, the aftermath of the Apartheid regime and what kind of legacy -and indeed, scars- it has left with the people of the country and most importantly, I think, the attitudes of South Africans toward one another.

This explosive and dynamic novel is an eye-opener to the realities of what South Africa has become, but even more than that, it is a damn fine piece of writing.

If it were a film, I would have given it a standing ovation.