Like his runaway bestseller Thirteen Hours, Deon Meyer's Seven Days features Inspector Benny Griessel, a reformed alcoholic dedicated to his work with the South African Police Services and to recovering his dignity and relationship with his children. Meyer has created a compelling cast of characters throughout his crime-writing career, but Griessel is perhaps the most finely drawn, so it's delightful to see him back in action again so soon.
The novel opens with a mysterious figure dubbed "Solomon" by the media, who shoots and wounds one policeman each day--eventually killing an officer--because, he claims, the SAPS know who murdered a lawyer named Hanneke Sloet and are covering up for her killer. Solomon emails the media and the SAPS repeatedly, but to Benny's irritation doesn't actually name the person he believes responsible.
The original investigation into Sloet's death had gone nowhere, and Benny and his team frantically search for any new clues and try to figure out the connection to Solomon. Meanwhile, his Zulu colleague Mbali Kaleni tracks the shooter with her usual tenaciousness. The two investigations move forward in parallel, with Benny increasingly frustrated and furious, but unable to understand the shooter's motivation. Readers are treated to a narration of events from the shooter's point of view, so we know he believes his own assertion that the SAPS are covering up the Sloet killing, but like Benny, we don't know why until the end.
Meanwhile, Benny's personal life grows increasingly complicated as he develops a relationship with Alexa Barnard, a talented and once-famous singer who is also an alcoholic. Benny's own sobriety is tested when Alexa falls off the wagon as she tries to re-start her career, and he's pulled in two directions trying to care for her while solving a high-profile case in the spotlight of the media.
As usual in Meyer's novels, the plot is tight, the writing is taut, and the characters are beautifully developed. The detailed rendering of life and politics in the new South Africa is nothing short of brilliant. Nonetheless, Seven Days doesn't quite reach the level of Meyer's best work (which in my opinion was Thirteen Hours). The pacing is a little of,f so the book drags a bit in the middle. Benny's self-doubt is overplayed at times and he approaches maudlin as he berates and blames himself for Alexa's drinking. And I found myself wondering over and over why the shooter doesn't simply give the media the name of Sloet's killer, if he's so sure he knows who it is.
Still, Seven Days is a terrific book narrated by the best narrator I've found. I've already listened to it twice, and I'm sure I'll return to it again in the future. There's no better crime writer on the scene today.
While the book itself is enjoyable, I found myself unable to completely enjoy it because of the narration. Call me picky, but when I listen to an audiobook with Irish characters, I want to the narrator to either be Irish or be able to do a convincing Irish accent. Most of the time the characters either sounded Cockney or had the kind of stereotyped "Irish" accent you hear the non-Irish put on for St. Patrick's Day. To make matters worse, no one even coached him on proper pronunciation of the Irish words, so I found myself gritting my teeth every time he pronounced the Garda Siochana as "the Gardee Shiksana." Arghh. My advice is to get this book in print.
I listened to this one because I liked Thirteen Hours so much. It didn't disappoint--I love this author and this narrator!
I've never listened to an audiobook twice, but I listened to this one twice in 6 months. The plot moves quickly, but it's the characters and their stories that drive the book. The author is a superb storyteller, and I found myself engrossed in the histories of the individual characters and impatient to find out what happens to each. In addition, the politics and culture of the "new" South Africa are complex and fascinating. The narrator does a great job with the voices and accents, which makes the book come alive. Altogether my favorite recent audiobook.
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