by Bruce TierneyJuly, 2004
Tip of the dark continent
There have been any number of exceptional mysteries set in southern Africa over the years, from James McClure's cracking police procedurals featuring Inspector Kramer and his Bantu assistant, Mickey Zondi, to Alexander McCall Smith's whimsical Botswana novels. Cape Town author Deon Meyer appears poised to join their ranks with the U.S. release of Heart of the Hunter, a taut post-Apartheid thriller pitting a common man against a corrupt government. Well, perhaps "common man" is a bit of a stretch, as the protagonist, Thobela "Tiny" Mpayipheli, is a giant of a man, a former government assassin. Still, in his defense, he has settled into a calm life with a lovely woman and her son, and he wants nothing more than to be left in peace. It is not to be. In the space of 48 hours, he will steal a motorcycle, bid his family farewell and find himself the target of a nationwide manhunt. On his purloined BMW, Mpayipheli threads his way through the South African back country, with the government in hot pursuit, in attack helicopters, no less! Breakneck pacing, staccato dialog if ever a book had "movie" written all over it, Heart of the Hunter is it (think Mystic River meets Rambo, in a setting suggesting The Gods Must Be Crazy).