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Dead Before Dying: A Novel Hardcover – May 9, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1st U.S. Ed edition (May 9, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316000132
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316000130
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #865,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

South African journalist Meyer's first novel, his third to be released in the U.S. (after 2005's Dead at Daybreak), is a gritty existential tale with enough muscle for thriller fans and noir aficionados alike. Mat Joubert, a 34-year-old Cape Town detective, has slipped into a downward spiral two years after his wife, a fellow cop, is killed in the line of duty. Complicating matters is his newly appointed boss, Bart de Wit, a bureaucrat determined to make a name for himself in the "new" South Africa, who sends Joubert to a shrink for counseling. Joubert's opportunity at redemption comes as he investigates a bizarre series of murders committed with a century-old Mauser pistol used by the Afrikaners in the Boer war. The killer even uses vintage cartridges. Trouble is, the murders appear to be completely random and unrelated. As Joubert closes in on the killer, the plot takes an unexpected turn that will shock readers. While not up to the standard of his later Dead at Daybreak, this remains a bold, character-driven page-turner. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Hulking police captain Mat Joubert is near suicidal after the death of his wife, who was killed in the line of duty as an undercover agent. Now he's living in a kind of purgatory, an overweight chain-smoker who is inattentive to his work in the Cape Town Murder and Robbery Department. A new commanding officer, a political appointee, is on a tear, touting the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. He orders Joubert to see a psychiatrist and gives him one last chance to prove himself, putting him in charge of an investigation into a serial killer who uses a 100-year-old German handgun. Joubert desperately races to find a connection among the victims, a case the newspapers are reveling in, which, in turn, increases the pressure to solve it. Meanwhile, in prosaic fashion, Joubert struggles to bring himself back to life by chucking the cigarettes, cooking low-cal meals, and taking up swimming. Meyer subtly juxtaposes the heartbreak of the victims' families with the heartbroken detective assigned to their cases. Using humor and pathos in equal measure, Meyer builds a deeply moving portrait of a man in search of his own dignity, reclaiming his life one pool lap at a time. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Deon Meyer was born in the South African town of Paarl in the winelands of the Western Cape in 1958, and grew up in Klerksdorp, in the gold mining region of Northwest Province.

After military duty and studying at the Potchefstroom University, he joined Die Volksblad, a daily newspaper in Bloemfontein as a reporter. Since then, he has worked as press liaison, advertising copywriter, creative director, web manager, Internet strategist, and brand consultant.

Deon wrote his first book when he was 14 years old, and bribed and blackmailed his two brothers into reading it. They were not impressed (hey, everybody is a critic ...)


Heeding their wisdom, he did not write fiction again until he was in his early thirties, when he started publishing short stories in South African magazines.

"I still believe that is the best way to learn the craft of writing. Short stories teach you a lot about story structure - and you have limited space to develop character and plot," says Deon.

In 1994 he published his first Afrikaans novel, which has not been translated, "simply because it was not good enough to compete on the international market. However, it was a wonderful learning experience".

All later novels have been translated into 25 languages, including English, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Russian, Finnish, Czech, Romanian, Slovakian and Bulgarian.

Deon lives in Melkbosstrand on the South African West Coast with his wife, Anita, and they have four children to keep them busy: Lida, Liam, Johan and Konstanz.

Other than his family, his big passions are motorcycling, music (he is a Mozart fanatic, but loves rock 'n roll too), reading, cooking and rugby (he unconditionally supports the national Springbok team and the Free State Cheetahs provincial team).

The Hodder interview

How did you come to write your first novel?
I sort of worked my way up to a novel by writing short stories for magazines first, to learn the basics of writing fiction. It took about 15 short stories before I attempted the longer form - and it was a steep learning curve.

How do you do your research?
I do as much hands-on research as possible, like spending a week or so with the police detectives in Cape Town, or riding the motorcycle routes (for Heart of the Hunter). Interviews with clever people, like police forensics experts, forensic psychologists and even a sex workers (for Devil's Peak) is next on the list, after which I read as much as possible about the subjects I'm writing about.

Do you still consult on brand strategy?
No, I started writing full time in January 2008, and had to resign from the wonderful privilege of working for BMW Motorcycles as a brand strategist and special projects manager.

Are you married/single?
I am happily married to Anita, without whom not much would have been possible.

What are your thoughts about the state of S.A. today?
I'm not sure that a short answer will do justice to such an intriguing and complicated country, but let me try: I am extremely positive about South Africa. Despite huge challenges, such as poverty, aids, and crime, we've come a long way since 1994.

The economy is growing at a rapid rate, Black Economic Empowerment is paying big dividends through the creation of an emerging black middle class, the new government, although sometimes struggling at local level, is learning and improving every day, and crime rates are going down.

Having said that, we still have a long way to go.

Customer Reviews

Deon's Meyer as good as usual.
Jerome Revol
The plot is complex enough to keep the readers wondering until the very end.
Larry
Interesting characters and a great story.
Mort Five Thousand

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Larry VINE VOICE on May 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
There is a certain common format in the writing of a British police procedural novel. The main protagonist, whether he is a chief inspector or detective inspector, are all complex creations full of angst with a whole host of personal issues. Over the course of a series these issues will be confronted and hopefully resolved. The murder or crime is almost peripheral to the characters. The reader is drawn in by these very realistically portrayed characters and can't wait to visit with them again. After all, it is not the crime the reader recalls, it is usually whether the main protagonist stopped drinking or left his wife that is most pressing. The whole host of supporting and minor characters, as well as the locale, give these books their full richness. Examples include the superb books of Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson, Reginald Hill, Elizabeth George, Stephen Booth or the historical novels of Charles Todd. Add to these highly regarded authors the South African writer, Deon Meyer, who writes very much in the vein of the contemporary British police procedural.

Captain Mat Joubert of Capetown, South Africa, has several problems he must solve. First of all, there is a polite bandit holding up the Premier Banks. He always compliments the bank clerks as he is robs them. Second, and more pressing, is the seemingly random murders of various men in town -- all killed by an old German handgun. On top of this, Joubert must cope with the recent loss of his wife, Lara, and his new boss who wants Joubert to straighten himself out or look for another job.

DEAD BEFORE DYING is a very impressive work because the characters are so carefully and realistically created. But do not pick up this book if you are expecting a fast read. It is not a thriller.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on May 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Captain Mat Joubert of Murder and Robbery in Cape Town, South Africa is a tormented man. Two years ago his wife Lara, also with the police department, died--and since that time, Joubert has lost his will to live and his job is hanging by a thin thread.

Now, people in Cape Town, without any known connection, are being murdered with a century-old Mauser handgun and a gentleman robber is hitting branches of the Premier Bank.

Joubert and his colleagues have a new boss who is set on changing the department and those who work there. He is demanding that they not only solve cases quickly but they must also get healthy. That means lose weight, eat healthy, stop drinking and smoking and if, like Joubert, there are emotional distresses in their lives, see a psychologist.

Joubert is compelled to sort out his life, face his past and solve his cases in a last-ditch effort to save his career--and maybe even his life.

Deon Meyers is a master storyteller. Dead Before Dying is filled with action, excitement and intense tension. The characters are multi-dimensional and their work and personal lives share the stage in a manner that brings them and the story to life.

Armchair Interviews says: Since the setting is in Cape Town, there are cultural differences that Americans are not familiar with but don't let that prevent you from a good read.
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Format: Hardcover
Captain Mat Joubert is sinking under the weight of his despair, still grieving the death of his wife two years and three months ago, his attention to police work slipping noticeably and his connection to life failing miserably. He has been in pain for too long, considering the only option that makes sense. When the sudden attention of a young girl occasions a surge of unexpected feelings, challenging his long slide into oblivion, it occurs to Joubert that he may not be ready to face the Grim Reaper. It's just as well. Under the leadership of a new commanding officer, the first black minister of law and order, the Department of Murder and Robbery is officially a part of the new South Africa, post-apartheid. Bart de Wit is enigmatic and demanding, requiring all the men in his command to shape up, physically and mentally, their jobs contingent on sufficient progress in every aspect of their lives.

Joubert acquiesces while dealing with a baffling new case: someone is shooting civilians point blank, with no apparent motive. Still reeling from his return to the living, Joubert grapples with awakening emotions and a desire to stop the senseless murders that are terrifying South Africans, while De Wit contentiously monitors his every move. Besides the tension Meyer brings to his novels, the character development is multi-layered and uniquely human, the inner turmoil of Captain Joubert; his friend and co-worker, the alcoholic Detective Sergeant Benny Griessel, whose job is on the line; the wife of the first victim, Margaret Wallace (she of the strangely colored eyes); even his assigned therapist. It is this combination of humanity and criminality that renders Meyer's novels irresistible, tapping into the utter horror of random murders and the devastation such acts leave in their wake.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Patto TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 22, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My heart went out to Mat Joubert with his emotional wounds and insecurities, just as if he was a real person, not just a character in a book. I wanted to comfort him. I was a little in love with him, as was the sexy criminologist in this book who called him a " big shy bear." I have to admire an author who can get me this caught up.

Mat Joubert of the South African Police has been mourning two years for his dead wife, an undercover detective murdered "in the line of duty." To add to his distress, he has a new boss, a skinny little man who's obsessed with fitness. He decrees that the whole force must lose weight if they're fat, stop smoking and drinking, and get in shape. And the boss wants cases to be solved, no excuses.

Mat's struggles to trim his stomach, deal with booze and cigarettes and exercise are heroic and pretty funny. Amazingly he keeps dieting and swimming laps all through the most perplexing case the police have seen in years. A serial killer is shooting men one by one with an antique gun. The motive is a mystery, the victims have nothing in common, and it takes the whole book for Joubert to find a useful clue.

Another perpetrator is proving just as elusive: a bank robber who changes his appearance dramatically with each robbery.

Meanwhile, Joubet's boss is making him see a psychologist for his mental health - the final indignity. Can this attractive, petite woman fix Joubert's head? Joubert has many hilarious and dramatic encounters with women in this book.

The multi-layered plot is so gripping, I didn't want the book to end and at the same time, couldn't wait to finish it. This is definitely one of my favorite Deon Meyer books, and they're all terrific.
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