Friday, May 6, 2011

Review: MIXED BLOOD by Roger Smith

MIXED BLOOD by Roger Smith (Henry Holt, 2009)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

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 local crime fiction on the map.

In MIXED BLOOD, 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, 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 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. It's quite dark in parts, but Smith keeps the pace up and his lively prose means it never feels that we're wallowing in that darkness. I'll definitely be reading more of Smith's work.

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