From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. At the start of this stellar thriller from South African author Smith (Mixed Blood
), Cape Town meth heads Godwynn MacIntosh and Disco De Lilly hijack wheeler-dealer Joe Palmer's Mercedes. When the two black men shoot Joe in the leg, the reaction of Joe's gold-digging American wife, a former model, is to say the least, unexpected. While honest cop Ernie Maggott tracks the carjackers, and sociopathic killer Piper pursues Disco, once his jailhouse wife, half-white Billy Afrika, a former police detective and now a mercenary to whom Joe owed a ton of cash, is bent on revenge for Piper's savage two decades-old murder of Billy's mentor. Bad choices, not bad luck, drive human depravity in this brutal fable, where the human ideals of beauty and goodness and truth can't save their possessors and even fatally attract the soulless. One fundamental irony unforgettably lingers: that these characters, trapped in poverty, ignorance, and prejudice, have really had no choice at all. (Feb.)
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In outline, this pinballing ensemble tale of a mercenary, an ex-model, an ex-con, an arms dealer, a cop, a kid, a revolutionary, a prostitute, assorted gangsters, and a suitcase full of cash isn’t all that different from other entries in the crime subgenre birthed by Elmore Leonard. What sets this one apart is its setting—sunbaked, blood-soaked Cape Town—and its relentless intensity. Billy Afrika, back from Iraq, just wants the money he is owed for getting shot at. Unfortunately, the security broker who hired him just got carjacked. In his ensuing scramble for compensation, Billy must confront, in addition to the motley crew listed above, the physical and psychic scars of growing up in poverty-stricken Cape Flats. Smith (Mixed Blood, 2009) keeps the pacing brisk and the introspection brief in this gory tour, which surely won’t be on the recommended-reading list of the Cape Town tourism board. But his bullet points—which include racial tension, gang warfare, prison life, and witchcraft, with a nod to cannibalism—will make this thriller a prime destination for readers who like to detour from crime-fiction’s beaten path. --Keir Graff