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Blood Safari Hardcover – August 25, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Set mainly in the game preserves of South Africa, Meyer's stellar stand-alone thriller delivers muscular prose with a hero to match. When three masked men break into the Cape Town home of Emma le Roux on Christmas Eve, Emma manages to escape over the wall into her neighbor's yard. Emma fears the attack may be connected to recent evidence that her brother, Jacobus, who she thought died 20 years before while serving as a temporary game ranger, is actually alive. She hires professional bodyguard Martin Lemmer to protect her while she investigates. Lemmer is a true original, tough, with a checkered past, a restless inquiring mind and the skills to thwart the masked thugs who are determined to kill his client. After Emma is severely injured, Lemmer goes on the offensive, bent on revenge and determined to solve the ever-widening mystery that threatens to kill them both. Once again, Meyer (Devil's Peak) shows he's a writer not to be missed. (Sept.)
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Praise for Deon Meyer: "One of the sharpest and most perceptive thriller writers around." -- "The Times "(London) "Tough in-your-face crime writing that spares nothing in language, visceral sense of blood and mayhem . . . and never waivers from the compelling pace of the story. It also has a mean line in humour that comes through in the snappy dialogue." -- "The Sunday Independent" "Out of post-apartheid South Africa comes a thriller good enough to nip at the heels of le Carre . . . Wonderful setting; rich and colourful cast." -- Starred Review, "Kirkus"
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Emma turns for help to Body Armor, one of South Africa's premier personal protection companies. Martin Lemmer, a man with a troubled past, is thus assigned the task of guarding Emma's lovely body as she traipses around South Africa, searching for the man who might be her brother and stirring up trouble at every turn. The two put together an increasingly complex picture of the alleged killer who was a radical environmentalist. Along the way, Emma and Martin (and the reader as well, of course) are also subjected to any number of lectures about the ways in which greedy, thoughtless human beings are destroying the only planet that they have.
The mysterious villains who want Emma dead and out of their hair do not give up easily, and Martin will have his hands full trying to keep her safe. Along the way, he will uncover all sorts of nefarious plots and put his own safety at serious risk.
Lurking somewhere in this book is a reasonably decent thriller. But reading it, it's hard to decide what Meyer's real objective might be. Is he attempting to write a straightforward thriller? Is this primarily an urgent warning about the serious environmental damage that is being done in South Africa? Is it supposed to be a character study of Lemmer, the narrator, whose past is slowly revealed as the book progresses?
Virtually every time the story begins to build up a head of steam, Meyer brings it to a screeching halt and drops in a lecture about environmental matters. There is also a significant development near the middle of the book after which the narrator goes on for pages and pages describing his past life to the point where the reader is virtually pleading with the author to just get on with the story.
This is a very long book, and Meyer is obviously sincere in his concern for the environment. The latter is all to the good, at least as far as I'm concerned. But he could have told this story in a much more economical fashion and maintained the suspense he was attempting to build, rather than letting it dissipate away on way too many occasions. And in the process, he could have still gotten his message across without beating the reader over the head with it.
That's Lemmer. He makes a great bodyguard, because he never gets involved, trusts no one, and is combat-ready with tremendous stamina and martial arts skills. He's a freelancer, currently assigned to guard a rich and beautiful woman named Emma Le Roux, who believes someone wants to kill her. Lemmer thinks she's making it up, but it turns out to be all too true.
Blood Safari is a terrific love story, partly because it has an archetypical quality: the brave warrior protecting the princess-like female against tremendous odds. And it's a terrific thriller, because the people who are after Emma are very bad, and Lemmer has numerous opportunities to tangle with them. Lemmer is no detective, but he's forced to think like one. Karate moves alone are not enough to solve the mystery of why Emma's parents died, why her brother disappeared, and why Emma herself is being shot at.
What fuels events is Emma's search for her lost brother. The search takes her and Lemmer into remote regions of South Africa.
Blood Safari has an environmental theme that's central to the plot, and in fact inspired the book, according to the author. Africa's wildlife and ecosystem is under threat by poachers and developers. Emma, Her bodyguard and the reader get an ecological education, and experience some very tense moments, while visiting nature preserves and wildlife rehabilitation centers.
I loved this book. It's rich in engaging characters -- black and white, male and female, hetero and lesbian. The wilderness setting is wonderfully exotic. And the action never lets up.
Blood Safari is an exceptional novel that offers suspense, mystery, and well-developed characters. The pacing of the book is perfect, and the plot alternates rhythmically and satisfyingly between tension and release. Meyer's writing is skillful and polished. He doesn't bore with superfluous descriptions or unnecessary details. Instead, his prose is meshed seamlessly with dialogue to convey a story of intrigue, injustice, cruelty, and love. Meyer portrays realistic characters who stay with you even after you've put the book down.
This was the first book I've read by this author, and I am eager to read other books by him. Recommended.