Sunday, October 9, 2011

RWC Quarterfinal 3: Australia vs South Africa (Corris vs Smith)

As I said yesterday, one of the biggest sporting events on the planet is currently being staged right here in New Zealand; the Rugby World Cup 2011. As a way of celebrating crime fiction from around the world, and joining in the 'everything rugby themed' atmosphere down this way at the moment, I'm creating crime fiction posts that mirror the playoff games being played. So for the next eight games (four quarterfinals, two semifinals, one 3rd/4th playoff, one final) I will highlight a crime, mystery, or thriller novel from each of the countries playing the game, that I have either read or purchased in the past year or so.

Yesterday Wales overcame Ireland, and France overcame England in the rugby games (probably the reverse of what I would have picked in the crime fiction match-ups). Today it's the turn of the Southern Hemisphere.

The third quarterfinal sees Australia taking on South Africa. Should be a titanic battle.

Representing Australia: FOLLOW THE MONEY by Peter Corris
Although THE WRECKAGE by Michael Robotham is probably the best crime novel written by an Australian I've read in 2011, it's not set in Australia, so to represent the Lucky Country in this crime fiction match-up I'm picking the latest novel from another great Australian crime writer, Peter Corris. I read FOLLOW THE MONEY in January this year, in preparation for interviewing Corris.

The ‘godfather of Australian crime writing’, Corris has been penning his acclaimed Cliff Hardy tales for decades. This new instalment sees the aging hero in a slump; he’s lost his private eye license and his entire life savings - embezzled by a dodgy financial advisor, who later wound up dead. But then Hardy’s unofficially ‘hired’ by a slick, desperate lawyer to find out whether the embezzler faked his own death; an assignment that has the budding granddad entwined with ethnic gangs and Sydney’s gritty underbelly. There are a lot of things to like about FOLLOW THE MONEY, and I'd definitely read more of Corris and Hardy.

Representing South Africa: MIXED BLOOD by Roger Smith
South Africa is definitely gaining in stature on the international crime fiction stage. Deon Meyer has garnered plenty of acclaim, and other authors like Smith and Margie Orford, amongst several others, are certainly putting their indigenous crime fiction on the map. I read MIXED BLOOD in April this year.

Reluctant bank robber Jack Burn is on the run after a heist in the United States that left $3 million missing and one cop dead. Hiding out in Cape Town, South Africa, he is desperate to build a new life for his pregnant wife and young son. But on a tranquil evening in their new suburban neighborhood they are the victims of a random gangland assault that changes everything.

Benny Mongrel, an ex-con night watchman guarding a building site next to Burn’s home, is another man desperate to escape his past. After years in the ghetto gangs of Cape Town he knows who went into Burn’s house. And what the American did to them. He also knows his only chance to save his own brown skin is to forget what he saw. Burn’s actions on that night trap them both in a cat-and-mouse game with Rudi "Gatsby" Barnard—a corrupt Afrikaner cop who loves killing almost as much as he loves Jesus Christ—and Disaster Zondi, a fastidious Zulu detective who wishes to settle an old score. Once Gatsby smells those missing American millions, the four men are drawn into a web of murder and vengeance.

I really enjoyed MIXED BLOOD. It twists and turns in a violent yet engaging journey, that is filled with memorable characters. I'll definitely be reading more of Smith's work (as well as more South African crime fiction in general).

Result: while the rugby is a toss-up that could go either way depending how the teams play this evening, if I had to pick a winner between these books, I might go for MIXED BLOOD, even though Corris has had an illustrious career. I will be reading many more of Corris's Cliff Hardy books, but for me, MIXED BLOOD might just pip FOLLOW THE MONEY on the day. Whether this is an omen for the rugby quarterfinal, we'll just have to wait and see.

Have you read either of these books, or authors? Do you like Australian and/or South African crime fiction?

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