Sunday 25 November 2012


Blurb...... An American fugitive hides out in Cape Town—one of the world’s most beautiful and violent cities—in this riveting debut thriller that asks: Can you ever outrun your past?

Reluctant bank robber Jack Burn is on the run after a heist in the United States that left $3 million missing and one cop dead. Hiding out in Cape Town, South Africa, he is desperate to build a new life for his pregnant wife and young son. But on a tranquil evening in their new suburban neighborhood they are the victims of a random gangland assault that changes everything.

Benny Mongrel, an ex-con night watchman guarding a building site next to Burn’s home, is another man desperate to escape his past. After years in the ghetto gangs of Cape Town he knows who went into Burn’s house. And what the American did to them. He also knows his only chance to save his own brown skin is to forget what he saw.

Burn’s actions on that night trap them both in a cat-and-mouse game with Rudi "Gatsby" Barnard—a corrupt Afrikaner cop who loves killing almost as much as he loves Jesus Christ—and Disaster Zondi, a fastidious Zulu detective who wishes to settle an old score. Once Gatsby smells those missing American millions, the four men are drawn into a web of murder and vengeance that builds to an unforgettable conclusion.

I was unaware of Roger Smith, until a recent browse around a Waterstones had me scurrying to the till with Dust Devils. I was intrigued enough to dig through his back list and track down this copy of his first novel. I’m so glad I did.

Smith has delivered a fast-paced, violent, gritty little book, peppered with intriguing characters from both sides of the tracks; Burn – an ex- US marine with a gambling Jones that forces him on the run, Mongrel - a survivor of the ghettos and some serious jail-time, now trying to move on with his life and leave the gangs behind and Gatsby – a corpulent, stinking, corrupt and zealous-Jesus loving cop, feared by all on the impoverished Cape Flats.

With Burn fearful of losing his family and his liberty after dealing with a violent home invasion, witnessed by Mongrel and Gatsby under threat from an outside investigation, led by Zondi, their paths cross.

Gatsby cracks Burn’s cover and senses opportunity to get out from under Zondi and mayhem follows.    

In addition to the strong characters Smith has drawn, none of them particularly likeable, but all memorable; his portrayal of a city of contrasting fortunes acts as an interesting back-drop for the book. Gangs, ghetto, drug use, tik-whores, poverty and’s all in here.  

Having recently read both Deon Meyer and Mike Nicol, I would put Smith and Mixed Blood equal first with Nicol’s Payback and a little way ahead of Meyer’s Trackers, in my SA crime league table. I have further books to read from all three, which I’m hoping will enliven the months ahead.

As this was Smith’s debut novel, can he possibly get better with his subsequent books?

 I’ll track down the others and find out,

Cape Town


Best book this month so far, 5 from 5.

Highly recommended.
I bought my copy on e-bay after a bit of bargain hunting.   


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