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‘Masterfully done’ – Margaret von Klemperer reviews Our Fathers by Karin Brynard

First published in The Witness

Our FathersOriginally published as Onse Vaders, Karin Brynard’s new novel picks up the characters from Weeping Waters (Plaasmoord in Afrikaans). This time round, Inspector Albertus Beeslaar has left his Kalahari home to visit an old friend in Stellenbosch, only to discover when he gets there that his friend has died. And Sergeant Johannes Ghaap, determined to find his own policing feet, has got out from under Beeslaar’s wing and gone to Soweto, keen for a taste of life at the cutting edge.

Trouble is, the cutting edge is a lot sharper than he bargained for – there are some wonderfully hair-raising scenes of life in South Africa’s most populous and most lawless city – and he’s having trouble getting in touch with his old mentor for advice. The reason is that Beeslaar’s holiday has rapidly gone pear-shaped. Not only is his old friend dead, but he has got caught up in the messy murder of a property developer’s wife, and Inspector Vuyokazi Qhubeka, despite her sparkling eyes and dimples, is not going to let him leave town unless he gives her a hand. A third strand in the story is Gerda Matthee, pregnant with Beeslaar’s child and struggling to get her life together after a horrible tragedy. She is also running into danger in Johannesburg.

Brynard weaves her three plotlines together with considerable skill, easing the stories forward and hooking the reader who wants to know about three appealing characters and how they are going to get out of the mess they find themselves in as their tales unfold. And at the same time she is dealing with big issues that face South Africa – ownership of land, dirty deals, relations between the races, gangs, drugs and the endemic violence that has come to offer an all-too-quick solution to any crisis. It is masterfully done, and, like its predecessor, is more thoughtful than many local thrillers, while still managing to be a gripping page-turner.

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