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Thirteen Hours    by Deon Meyer order for
Thirteen Hours
by Deon Meyer
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I have to agree with Michael Connelly who tells us (on the front cover of Thirteen Hours) that 'with Deon Meyer you can't go wrong'. He consistently delivers a brilliant thriller that keeps readers tense on the edge of their seats, as well as characters who are very flawed and very real. I also enjoy the fact that you never quite know which old friends you're likely to meet in a new Meyer novel. Leads in one story often show up in secondary roles in another (a technique that another of my thriller favorites, Michael Robotham, also uses).

This time the star is Inspector Benny Griessel (an insightful and briliant policeman who is a recovering alcoholic). Benny worked for Murder and Robbery Superintendant Mat Joubert in Dead Before Dying and also played a major role in Devil's Peak. Now Mat is thinking of becoming a private investigator, but first gives Benny badly needed help in Thirteen Hours. As the story opens, Benny is near the end of the six months of sobriety his wife Anna demanded of him when she threw him out - she's called and asked for a get-together and he wonders why. At the same time, Benny's current boss, Regional Commissioner John Africa, has him mentoring more junior officers, which soon immerses him in two very high profile cases.

The book opens on an athletic and intelligent young American desperately running from a group of determined and organized pursuers in Cape Town, a strange city in a country foreign to her. Why does Rachel run and why did they kill her friend Erin? We only find out the shocking motivation at the very end of the story. Inspector Vusumuzi 'Vusi' Ndabeni investigates when Erin's body is found, and soon learns of Rachel's flight. The second case, handled by Inspector Dekker Fransman (who has quite a chip on his shoulder) is the murder of Adam Barnard, owner of a record company. His alcoholic wife Alexandra (once a very popular singer) awakened from a drunken stupor on a rug near the corpse, the murder weapon lying next to her. Slam dunk thinks Dekker. Not so, muses Benny.

Readers root for Rachel as she runs and hides and runs again, in between managing a quick call to her parents in America, in which she mentions that police elements are involved with her pursuers. Benny, whose own daughter was kidnapped in Devil's Peak, desperately wants to find Rachel, and also feels for fellow alky Alexandra, and tries to help her. Thirteen Hours is an excellent and involving mystery, rich in credible characters - I especially enjoyed forthright female Inspector Mbali Kaleni, whose male colleagues 'felt threatened by her talent and ... were intimidated by her ethics and her integrity' - and with an immensely satisfying conclusion. If you are a mystery fan, Deon Meyer should be high on your must read list.

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