More than a tight grip on the throat!
It is probably not a unique experience to read two thrillers at the same time, especially for thriller cowards like me. When the pace gets so hot that I have to take a break to stave off cardiac arrest, I sometimes pick up the next book in the review queue to read while pulse and heartbeat normalise.
OUR FATHERS was a bit like that, only in a single volume.
Detective Captain Beeslaar from South Africa’s Northern Cape is heading for Stellenbosch to look up his retired old friend and mentor, but arrives only just in time for the funeral. Local police Captain Vuyokazi Qhubeka enlists his reluctant help in tackling the murder of the wife of a local millionaire property developer, while the rich white man’s family, who have no faith in the black female cop, try to enlist his help in a private capacity. Qhubeka slyly manages to use their attempted manipulation to her own advantage.
Simultaneously, in the sprawling black city of Soweto, where Beeslaar’s ex-colleague and protégé, Sergeant Ghaap, who had himself transferred for the experience, is having severe regrets. On his way to his station to report for duty on foot due to the fact that his car has been stolen, he is given a lift by a team of “trackers” whose job it is to retrieve stolen vehicles. They know the warren of shacks and tracks very well, and it is with their cheerful, irreverent help that Ghaap slowly grounds himself and inserts his detective abilities into the search for a kidnapped pregnant woman, Beeslaar’s ex-girlfriend, and her small son.
Both stories are tense, gripping and entertaining; the one a small release for the other as the action flip-flops back and forth between the two.
Translated expertly from the Afrikaans by Linde Dietrich, it is far more than a pair of gripping thrillers. It is a mirror of the uneasy racial melting pot that is the New South Africa, where racism remains firmly entrenched in some quarters, but a slowly increasing respect and understanding reaches out a tenuous grip in others. There is no lack of humour, either.
While non-South African readers will probably find this a real strain on colloquial adjustment, locals may also be stretched to keep up with the slang/s influenced by several of the 11 official languages.
Trying to explain the title may be to introduce a spoiler or two, so I won’t bother. Speaking for myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the read. Or reads.
Reviewed honestly for, and Published by, Penguin Random House South Africa.