Thursday, October 13, 2022

South Africa Scene

 Michael - Thursday

Most followers of Murder Is Everywhere probably know that I do a monthly piece for the International Thriller Writers’ e-magazine (which rejoices in the name of The Big Thrill) called Africa Scene. Each article features an author with a new mystery/thriller novel set largely somewhere in Africa, and the idea is to display the rich variety of work that is coming out of a range of African countries. Sometimes the books are written by authors not living in Africa, but engaged with Africa in a deep way.

Having just set up the November piece, I suddenly realized two things about 2022 so far  – one good and one not so good. The good one is that it’s been a bumper year for South Africa (actually southern Africa, including Botswana). We’ve had a remarkable suite of new novels from new and established South African authors and they’ve picked up almost all the slots this year. The bad thing, of course, is the other side of that coin - where are all the mystery/thrillers set further north? We’ve had some stunners over the last few years, but suddenly there’s a dearth. I’m always on the lookout for them, but either I’m doing a bad job or this has been a rather dry year.

So let’s get back to the good news. I’ll just focus on the themes because the spread suggests that SA crime fiction is spreading out from its focus on the Apartheid past. However, I’ve included the Africa Scene link if you’d like to find out more about the author and the book.

February:  Outside the Lines by Ameera Patel

Ameera's debut novel explores how class is replacing race as the boundaries in South Africa, although there’s still racial stereotyping going on, especially from older people. The novel has as diverse a collection of characters as one could hope: a white father and daughter who live in a modest suburban house, their domestic, Flora, who also lives in the house. A Zimbabwean, Runyararo, who is in the country illegally and whose situation forces him “outside the lines”, and Farhana who comes from a strict Muslim family, but whose boyfriend (Flora's son) is a black drug dealer. This heady mixture meshes to a tense, literary thriller.

April: The Dark Flood by Deon Meyer

The backstory for this book is based loosely on a true story of a company collapse in prosperous Stellenbosch in the Cape wine country and the resulting impact on the local property market. The modern corruption and people sailing far too close to the wind, makes a great story.

May: Serpent Crescent by Vivian de Klerk

For something completely different, Vivian gives us a protagonist who is a sociopath – now an elderly woman living alone in a house in Serpent Crescent in a town based on a university city in the Eastern Cape - who tells us the story of her life. Part of the attraction of the book is the in-depth look at how such a personality develops, and learns to protect itself, but there are many twists and turns along the way.

 June: Hammerman by Mike Nicol

One evening in February 1986, a man assassinated the Swedish prime minister, Olaf Palme, shooting him outside a cinema. No one has ever been convicted of the crime, and at the time there were rumours that South Africa was involved because of Palme’s outspoken opposition to apartheid and his pro-sanctions stance. Mike has taken that idea, and explored how the ripples from that event might spread to the present day. This one is solidly rooted in the legacy of Apartheid.

July: The Milk Tart Murders by Sally Andrew

The Milk Tart Murders is Sally’s fourth mystery featuring the delightful Tannie Maria. Set in Ladismith in the Klein Karoo, Maria works for the Klein Karoo Gazette writing a love advice and recipe column. She lives outside town with her hens and her flowers, and is a superb cook. As usual, the book is dotted with delicious recipes, a selection of which are given in detail at the end of the book. If you haven’t met Tannie Maria before, you should do so, and you should try out some of those recipes. The first book is now a prime time TV series. I just can’t work out why Tannie Maria becomes Scottish for the role...

September: A Deadly Covenant by Michael Stanley

In the new Kubu novel we return to the Bushman theme of Death of the Mantis. In this second Kubu prequel, a long-past Bushman massacre is discovered, and Kubu has to discover why that event is generating murders in the present. Kwei very kindly not only read and gave us a quote for the book, but also took the interviewer’s seat for Africa Scene, and threw some great questions our way.

The book is now out as an ebook worldwide.

October: The Heist Men by Andrew Brown

The Heist Men is a thriller around a gang that attacks and robs cash-in-transit vehicles—a modern-day scourge in South Africa. The tension comes from two directions—on the one hand we follow Captain Eberard Februarie of the SA Police Service in his efforts to track down the gang, but on the other we follow Andile Xaba, the leader of a crew of heist men who sees his activities with the gang as a career. He leads a double life with a suburban girlfriend and township mother.  Despite his role in the gang, he grabs our interest and wins our sympathy.

November: The Eye of the Beholder by Margie Orford (Next month.)

Margie has been working on other interests since leaving South Africa so it's been a while since her last novel. Her new book revolves around the lives of three women, and is set partly in Canada, partly in South Africa, partly in London, and partly in Scotland. The theme is not particularly South African although the toxic masculinity that generates the sort of abuses these women face is endemic in South Africa. Their ways of trying to cope with it form the canvass on which these women are painted.

 Returning to the bad side of the coin, please let me know if you come across any suitable African mysteries from elsewhere on the continent that I’ve missed. I’d love to feature them!


This weekend you can catch up with Stan for the last three A Deadly Covenant launch events in the Twin Cities:

Friday 14, 10 am

Lake Country Booksellers event

4766 Washington Ave, White Bear Lake, MN 55110 Phone:651-426-0918


Saturday 15, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm 

Twin Cities Book Festival

Join Stan to chat about books, Botswana and Bushmen at this great annual event!

Minnesota State Fairgrounds, Saint Paul, Minnesota

@RainTaxiReview #TCBF


Sunday 16, 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Barnes and Noble, 

3230 Galleria, Edina, MN 55435 Phone:952-920-2124

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