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Heart of the Hunter: A Novel Hardcover – July 12, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A hulking black motorcycle-shop janitor named Tiny is the unlikely hero of this frantic, intelligent thriller by a South African crime writer. Tiny (aka Thobela Mpayipheli aka Umzingeli, the Hunter) is a former KGB-trained assassin who plied his trade in service of the struggle against apartheid. He is now a peace-loving family man, but when a plea for help comes from the daughter of an old friend, he is forced to race across the country on a motorcycle to deliver a coveted disk, chased by a homicidal special forces commander. His fear of revisiting the violence of his past feels real—the sincere hesitation of a dark-skinned man in a country where violent acts multiply like viruses, especially where black blood is involved. "His hands so terribly ready to kill, his brain clattering out the knowledge of the vital points on the soldier's body like machine gun fire, despairing, don't, don't, don't..." In other ways, this is a standard thriller complete with CIA involvement, an appearance by Muslim extremists and a loose, rat-a-tat prose that keeps pages turning. The central plot twist is predictable and too few of the many story lines are resolved, but the freshness of the context and the emotional complexity of the hero's journey are ample compensation for readers who want a more thought-provoking spy story.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Thobela Mpayipheli has settled into a sedate but rewarding life with the woman he loves. He works as a gofer at a South African motorcycle shop and readies his partner's young son for life on a farm--until an ex-boss asks him to perform a dangerous favor. His Xhosa warrior's heart racing, Thobela soon finds himself driving hard toward Nigeria with a hard drive full of secrets the unified government wishes to file away for good. Thrillingly competent at evading the police, intelligence services, and even a crack paramilitary team, Thobela struggles with the novel's core question--Can people change their essential nature?--while the authorities uncover his deadly past as a weapon of the antiapartheid movement on loan to the Soviet bloc. Like John le Carre's The Tailor of Panama, this novel examines the rippling horrors too often caused by so-called intelligence agents working for foreign masters in backwater nations. With simmering racial tensions, a bounty of natural resources, and a government whose members worked both sides of the cold-war fence, South Africa should prove fertile ground for many fine spy thrillers to come. Don't be surprised if quite a few of them are written by Meyer. Frank Sennett
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (July 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316935492
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316935494
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #750,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Sebastian Fernandez VINE VOICE on December 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Thobela Mpayipheli is an African giant, ex-spy, who is now living with his fiancé and her son in a small town in South Africa, called Guguletu. He has vowed never to go back to his old life, but his peaceful existence is broken when Monica Kleintjes, the daughter of one of his dear friends from the past, asks for his help. Johnny Kleintjes has been kidnapped and will only be released upon the delivery of a disk containing information that is crucial to national security. Kleintjes gathered this information when working in an integration project in an effort to document the real history relating to the events that took place in the dark era of the Apartheid.

Thobela, or Tiny as his friends call him, is a mysterious man that shows great kindness at moments, and cold-blooded violence at others. In a world when everyone wants to see things white or black, he presents a solid gray. This can be clearly appreciated by the reaction of the people as he goes on his quest, mounted on a powerful motorbike. Some see him as a hero, while others regard him as a dangerous man who cannot be good because he used to work as a "collector" for a drug baron. There is one reporter for the Cape Times, Allison Healy, who tries to answer the question: Is Tiny good or bad? This will provide us with valuable insight regarding the main character, but: can the question be answered with certainty?

One would thing that helping a friend that has been kidnapped would be hard enough, but Thobela has other problems too. Janina Metz, a high ranked officer in one of the intelligence agencies, had a wire that allowed her to listen to the conversation between the kidnappers and Monica. Therefore, she activated a special forces group led by a violent and vicious captain named Mazibuko.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on August 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Deon Meyer's American debut novel, HEART OF THE HUNTER, is a first-rate thriller, worthy to be on a bestseller list. Not only does Meyer write a fast-moving story, he also acquaints his readers with the landscape of South Africa. He writes suspense that moves quickly and delves deep into the heart of his characters. They jump from the page and involve his reader with immediacy. Meyer invokes sympathy for minor characters as well as his protagonist, Tiny Mpayipheli.

Tiny is a six-foot three strongman, retired from a life of killing for hire to that of a mechanic in a motorcycle shop in a small town. He lives with the woman who changes his life, Miriam Nzululwazi, and her son, Pakamile. All three are drawn into a spider web of life changes that none can control. Tiny's former life seeks him in the form of an old friend, held captive by persons unknown, who is desperate and contacts the quiet giant.

In 1984, the complicated government of a South Africa that has emerged from its struggle for independence is the undercurrent for Meyer's plot. Distrust among competing agencies leads to players with ambition seeking their own dynasties within government departments. Prime among these is Janina Mentz, officer in charge of the Ops Room's special unit of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). Her agency intercepts a phone call from Tiny's friend, Johnny Kleintjes, to his daughter and rolls into action. Mentz's mission is to stop Tiny from delivering a disk, believed to contain sensitive government information. Mentz calls on the diabolical Tiger Mazibuko, a marine officer with no scruples, for help in the Ops mission.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bryan on January 2, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I recently read Meyer's Blood Safari, so I really wanted to like this novel. But I just couldn't- perhaps it's just not a particularly good translation from Afrikaans. I found the plot very hard to follow- much of the action hinges on a counter-intelligence operation set in motion by one of the South African security services. The details are parceled out so sparingly that after a while you just stop caring about it. The subplot concerning "Tiny's" Cold War exploits is silly: a huge African wielding an assegai as a KGB assassin ? Really ? It's also apparent that Meyer has little experience of being around Americans; the one American character is a two-dimensional Ugly American.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Patto TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 2, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Thobela Mpayipheli is on an epic motorcycle ride from South Africa to Zambia. He's on a mission to save the life of a friend by delivering a sensitive data file to his captors.

His code name in the CIA was Umzingeli (The Hunter). His ironical nickname in the underground is Tiny. In fact, he's a larger-than-life black man, a prince of the Xhosa tribe, a veteran of the Struggle - and a warrior so lethal that when a drug baron hears that Intelligence is going after Tiny, he advises them, "Start ordering the body bags now."

Tiny is perhaps my favorite superhero in the world of thrillers. He's an ex-assassin who has given up violence, a wonderful family man, a tender lover, a loyal friend - a good man with a dark past and sweet visions of the future. Will he fall victim to post-Apartheid politics? Or will he survive the roadblocks, the helicopter surveillance, and the vicious attacks from the country's elite Presidential Intelligence unit? I was on the edge of my armchair waiting to find out.

Not only are Tiny's adventures completely riveting. There are a variety of absorbing subplots throughout. There's a shocking spy story. And a charming romantic interest between a Rubenesque female journalist and a close friend of Tiny's - an ex-cop turned psychology professor. Intellectual readers should enjoy mulling over the professor's theories of evolutionary psychology. Action-loving readers can enjoy the professor's prowess under attack.

Deon Meyer's books are a feast of complex characters, great fight scenes, pure love, dirty politics, and glorious African landscapes. Heart of the Hunter is a particularly wonderful example of his work.
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