THE DARK FLOOD by Deon Meyer (Hodder & Stoughton)
Deon Meyer is the king of South African crime fiction and one of the world’s best thriller writers.
His previous novel, The Last Hunt, was my favourite thriller of 2019 and now, after what seems an interminable wait, we have The Dark Flood, the latest instalment in his series about detectives Benny Griessel and Vaughn Cupido of the Hawks elite police unit in Cape Town.
Benny is the usual hard-worn detective trying to overcome a drinking problem and get his life back into order, but the depth of Meyer’s characterisation lifts him above the rest of the pack. Benny is no super detective, but a hard-working, experienced cop who can make connections and is always determined to see a case through to the end. While Cupido is Benny’s slightly flashy and very loyal partner.
In The Dark Flood the pair start the book reprimanded over their actions at the end of The Last Hunt and exiled to the quiet leafy streets of Stellenbosch. They have been dismissed from the Hawks and assigned to routine tasks, including the disappearance of a young university student. It seems to be a simple missing person case, but as the pair investigate they come to realise that is more to the missing Callie de Bruin than they realise. Meanwhile struggling real estate agent Sandra Steenberg is given the chance to save her family from financial ruin, when she is approached by the despised millionaire fraudster Jasper Boonstra to sell one of his secret holdings worth millions. Sandra jumps at the chance, but her dream of financial security comes with huge risks and sacrifices.
This is another stunning book by Meyer. The pace is a little slower than in The Last Hunt, but the suspense steadily builds as the dual plots unwind and the book careens down some unexpected paths. The thing with a Deon Meyer novel is that you never know where it is going to go, and that is certainly the case with The Dark Flood, which twists and turns it way to a surprising and bloody conclusion and witty final twist.
As usual the characterisations are rich and convincing and the interactions between Benny and those he encounters, including his fiancé Alexa Barnard, ring true. There is also the poignancy of Benny trying to re-establish a relationship with his son, who is scarred over his father’s past drinking. Meyer has a good ear for dialogue, and he seems to accurately capture the tone and rhythm of the conversations between the various characters. The descriptions of life in South Africa are vivid, but do not overwhelm the book, and the plot is well constructed and surprising.
Meyer draws on recent high-level corruption cases in South Africa and the ‘state capture’ of institutions for the background to his story, and also examines the plight of ordinary people caught up in the financial mess caused by corruption. It is a fascinating picture of a country still in turmoil. However, at the core of the book is an interesting crime story, and Meyer adroitly moves it along in a way that engages and ultimately excites the reader.
Another top notch read by Meyer. Four and a half stars out of five!
The Dark Flood was released in Australia on 22 February 2022 and will be released in the United Kingdom on 14 April 2022. It is not due for release in the United States until May 2022.
Thanks to the publishers and the Canberra Weekly for a copy of the book.