From Publishers Weekly
Screenwriter Smith offers a gritty tale of corruption and vengeance set in South Africa in his absorbing debut. On the verge of financial ruin, American Jack Burn, a security specialist, reluctantly joined a bank robbery plot that he hoped would save his family from disaster. The scheme ended badly, with most of his accomplices dead, along with a policeman, turning Burn, who made off with millions, into a wanted fugitive. Under a new identity, Burn has succeeded in making a new life with his wife and four-year-old son in Cape Town, South Africa. Their tenuous stability ends after two meth-heads invade the Burnses' home and threaten violence. While Jack manages to kill the intruders and dispose of the bodies, the incident draws the unwelcome attention of Insp. Rudi Barnard, a dirty cop who rules the area known as Cape Flats. The grim denouement may not satisfy all readers, but Smith's taut prose bodes well for future thrillers from his pen. Author tour. (Feb.)
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South Africa is quickly earning a place for itself as an A-list setting for noir-tinged crime fiction. Following in the footsteps of Deon Meyer (Heart of the Hunter, 2004), first-novelist Smith finds in racially embattled Cape Town the ideal location for a classic wrong-man-in-the-wrong-place thriller. Jack Burn, a gambler turned reluctant bank robber, flees the U.S. with $3 million, hoping to start a new life with his pregnant wife and son in Cape Town. It all goes bad, however, when a random home invasion sets Burn on a collision course with Rudi “Gatsby” Barnard, an obese and very bent cop whose passion for violence is equaled only by his dedication to Jesus. Smith plays out the downward spiral of his plot skillfully, drawing on that chilling sense of inevitability that is at the heart of the best noir, but he really shines in the nuanced portraits of his secondary characters, especially those struggling to exist in Cape Town’s ghetto. Like George Pelecanos, Smith captures the humanity burning in lives trapped by poverty and prejudice without sentimentalizing those lives or downplaying the havoc they can produce. A fine debut. --Bill Ott