Deon Meyer writes very successful thrillers set in post-apartheid South Africa. He is most famous for Trackers, a book that bought him worldwide acclaim and which was shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger in 2012. His books form a loosely based series with a set of characters that interweave through the narratives. His latest novel, Cobra, brings back Benny Griessel to investigate a series of assassinations.
A British scientist is kidnapped from a guest house on a Franschoek vineyard. The two bodyguards who were protecting him are found murdered along with the body of an estate worker. The most significant clue left behind at the crime scene are bullet cartridges engraved with the image of a spitting cobra. When another brutal murder takes place, with similar cobra embossed cartridges left at the scene, it is a race against time to find a small-time thief who has in his possession a phone that the killers want.
Unlike some of Meyer’s earlier books, Cobra has a straightforward linear narrative. The story focuses on the tension that arises when Tyrone Kleinbooi, a professional pickpocket, attempts to extract as much as he can from the circumstances. While this makes the narrative fast paced, it does detract from the quality of the investigation that we would normally expect in Meyer’s books. I would have preferred less focus on Tyrone and more on Griessel and his team.
Meyer is a great chronicler of modern day South Africa and he always maintains a clear eyed view of how justice works in the country. I enjoyed Cobra. It’s perhaps not his best book but still a tense paced thriller.
Thanks to Hodder for my review copy. Cobra is published in the UK on the 31st July. The translator was K L Seegers.