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Cobra    by Deon Meyer order for
by Deon Meyer
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2015 (2014)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Deon Meyer is one of my favorite thriller writers worldwide, so of course I jumped into his latest, Cobra as soon as it showed up. It has spies, diplomats, a very skilled assassin, an engaging young pickpocket and Benny Griessel as investigator. What more could any mystery reader want?

Benny, a divorced recovering alcoholic, has not had a drink for a long time, but he has other problems. He is very happy in his relationship with celebrity singer Alexa Barnard (also an alcoholic) but is having trouble keeping up with her expectations of his sexual prowess. So he ends up pretending to have work, sleeping at the office, and raising his boss's suspicions that he might have fallen off the wagon again. It's quite amusing.

But to offset that humor, he's prime in the investigation of a murder/kidnapping. The kidnap victim had hired Body Armour to provide him with personal security at a secluded guesthouse. The firm's bodyguards were shot by a skilled assassin and the man taken. Why was he kidnapped? Why does the State Security Agency immediately get involved and closely oversee the case? And what is the significance of the cobra engravings on the cartridges?

Benny learns from British authorities that the kidnapped man is Professor Adair, a genius who developed an algorithm that 'became the standard methodology to sniff out terrorists in the international banking system'. Are terrorists in play or was the kidnapping orchestrated by another organization that wants to keep its financial finagling very private?

Next we meet Tyrone, an engaging young pickpocket who works the streets in order to pay for his beloved sister Nadia's tuition. Tyrone robs a young woman who has just arrived from England and so sets off a violent train of events. The assassins want what he has and will kill and torture as needed to get it. They kidnap Nadia. As Tyrone desperately seeks to find a way to get her back safely, Benny becomes aware of his involvement and it becomes a race against time to save the siblings.

Captain Mbali Kaleni, who is fast becoming one of my favorite series characters, does not have a big role this time, but it's certainly a decisive one. She flatly refuses to obey orders and stop investigating the case. Mbali believes that State Security surveillance is destroying their democracy and she 'will not stand by and let it happen' - a role model for us all. Cobra is another splendid, intelligent, edge-of-your-seat thriller from Deon Meyer - absolutely not to be missed.

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