Monday, November 22, 2010

Review: BLOOD SAFARI by Deon Meyer

Originally for my third book in the African leg of the Extremist level for the excellent 2010 Global Reading Challenge (following crime novels set in Ancient Egypt and contemporary Botswana), I intended to read LIKE CLOCKWORD by South African author Margie Orford. However a lot of my fellow participants have been raving about Deon Meyer's books, so when I saw a copy of BLOOD SAFARI in a second-hand store a few weeks ago, I took the opportunity to grab myself a copy.

In BLOOD SAFARI, Lemmer is a freelance bodyguard for Body Armor, a personal security company in South Africa. Lean, angry, violent, he sees himself as being way down on the price list where the bargains are to be found.

Emma le Roux wants to find her missing brother, who supposedly died twenty years ago, but whom she is convinced she's seen on the news as a suspect in the recent killing of a witch doctor and four poachers. She hires Lemmer to watch her back when she goes looking for answers. Lemmer thinks they're on a wild goose chase, but still feels a need to protect Le Roux.

As Le Roux and Lemmer search for clues in the rural Lowveld, it becomes obvious someone wants to keep them in the dark. Someone who will go to any lengths to stop them asking questions. When they are attacked and almost killed, Lemmer decides to go after whoever is hunting them - against all odds.

Overall, Meyer pens an absorbing and exciting story filled with intriguing characters. I particularly enjoyed the way he threaded some interesting African themes issues, including fresh views on the enviroment, history and politics, throughout the page-turning tale. There is plenty of intrigue - just who wants Lemmer and le Roux to stop digging? - and Meyer nicely evokes a sense of the layers and complexity of both modern South Africa, and the natural environment.

I wasn't quite as enamoured with Meyer as I expected however, from all the praise I'd heard. For some reason I enjoyed the book, but wasn't totally caught up and engaged by it. Some of the dialogue seemed a bit clunky (that could have been the translation) and overall it seemed to fall into the 'good book, would read more of this author' category, rather than the superior 'fantastic book, want to read more of this author ASAP' category that several other authors fall into.

Overall however BLOOD SAFARI is an enjoyable and gritty mystery in an exotic setting.

3 1/2 STARS.


Are you part of Dorte's terrific 2010 Global Reading Challenge? Do you try to read crime and mysteries from a variety of countries? Have you read any of Deon Meyer's books, or other South African crime novels? Thoughts and comments welcome.


  1. Nice review, Craig. I liked this book a bit more than you did, but there were some elements of it that were more like a geography lesson! I mainly liked the protagonist (I subsequently learnt that he is a standard Meyer type) and his relationship with the woman he was escorting. The book that most people seem to think is his best is Devil's Peak, which I haven't got around to reading yet. Thirteen Hours, a recent one, is an exciting chase thriller.

  2. Craig - Nice review! Thanks for sharing. I actually liked this one very much, more than you did, but you've made some very good points.

  3. I liked the book, and really liked parts of it, but I guess i just expected to love it after all the praise from reviewers who I respect (such as yourselves). It's always interesting though - how books engage or resonate with us can come down to a myriad of factors (and change depending when we read it, or what we've read before and after).

    I'll definitely read more of Meyer though.

  4. I read only "Thirteen Hours," by Meyer, which was a fine thriller, actually a couldn't putdownable book; it was exciting with interesting characters.

    After that, I read "Let the Dead Lie," by Malla Nunn. I have not read her first book in the series yet, but will in 2011.

    I found Nunn's writing of characters to be very sensitive, her depiction of life under apartheid to be incisive and moving, including that of poverty in Durban, which taught me some things I hadn't known.

    I will read Nunn's first book before I move on to read more of Meyer's books, as I preferred her writing style and characterizations. But I will read more of his, as his ability to write a good thriller wins him readers.