On the night of 22 December 1980, a plane crashes on the Franco-Swiss border and is engulfed in flames. 168 out of 169 passengers are killed instantly. The miraculous sole survivor is a three-month-old baby girl. Two families, one rich, the other poor, step forward to claim her, sparking an investigation that will last for almost two decades. Is she Lyse-Rose or Emilie?
AFTER THE CRASH opens with private eye Credule Grand-Duc preparing to take his own life after spending nearly eighteen years failing to discover the truth behind the miracle of the baby who survived a plane crash. Preparing his papers for handover, and setting the scene for his dramatic final act, he contemplates once more the front page from the local newspaper the day that the crash happened. And suddenly realises he finally knows the answer.
Occurring at a time well before the advent of DNA testing, any chance of establishing the parentage of the baby at the time was limited to potential physical evidence - of which the type of clothes she was wearing, the lack or existence of jewellery and the location where she was found are the only possible pointers that the court, and initially Grand-Duc have to work with. The two families have had to resort to court action to settle their claims for the baby girl, one of two on the list of passengers on that ill-fated plane. The hard-fought court case eventually hangs on the slightest of evidence, and enough doubt to lead the court to decide in favour of one family. Accepting the decision, but quietly hiring Grand-Duc on a yearly retainer up until the girl turns 18, the other family clings to the idea that the baby may still prove to be their granddaughter, hence the dilemma that he finds himself in at the eleventh hour.
This is such an intriguing, and utterly believable story told in multiple narratives, switching from the baby girl's brother Mark, and voice of Grand-Duc via his case notes. Along the way there are telling observations around the events of the crash and the aftermath. The fickle attention span of the media, the nature of familial love and connection, and the love of a brother and sister which always seems to have another aspect to it. It's also not a single-threaded story, there are plenty of complications in both of these families, and each set of grandparents are left with one living grandchild into the bargain as well as their own complicated and realistic personal stories. In both these cases the families are always part of the focus, frequently part of the problem, or struggling with many unexpected complications.
Bussi is a master at the art of dropping clues into the narrative that don't become clear until much later, and of frequently leading the reader into a solution which raises more and more questions. Using the case notes of Grand-Duc as the guiding narrative for much of the action also brings in the potential of a highly unreliable narrator, especially as both he, Mark and the second possible sibling seem to be rushing to precipitate a resolution against each other. Of course you could be forgiven for wondering why it is that Mark doesn't simply flick straight to the end of Grand-Duc's notes, but that realisation might only happen with the benefit of hindsight. The quest in this case constantly seems more important than the resolution in the end. Particularly as it becomes clear that the matriarchs of both families have known the truth for much longer than anybody could possibly realise.
The pacing of this thriller is particularly interesting, somehow achieving massive leaps forward in what otherwise feels rather languid, almost rhythmic style. Even for those readers that pick many of the twists and turns coming there is more than enough unknowns to keep most people guessing right until the end of AFTER THE CRASH. Certainly this reader was intrigued, and surprised by the resolution, having got to the point where it felt like just about everybody was stepping up for the position of chief unreliable narrator.
Review - THE GRAND CRU HEIST, Jean-Pierre Alaux, Noël Balen
In another Epicurean journey in France, renowned wine critic Benjamin Cooker’s world gets turned upside down one night in Paris. He retreats to the region around Tours to recover. There a flamboyant British dandy, a spectacular blue-eyed blond, a zealous concierge and touchy local police disturb his well-deserved rest. From the Loire Valley to Bordeaux, in between a glass of Vouvray and a bottle of Saint-Émilion, the Winemaker Detective and his assistant Virgile turn PI to solve two murders and very particular heist.
It's hard not to become increasingly enamoured of this wonderful series of books (of which there are now 8 translated), based in the gloriously described wine regions of France, featuring the curmudgeonly, slightly arrogant, ever vigilant Benjamin Cooker, his assistant Virgile and wife Elisabeth. In THE GRAND CRU HEIST, sadly Elisabeth who is missing in action for much of the novel.
This story starts out with our renowned wine critic being bashed and robbed one night in Paris. Bad enough that the young, violent villains pinched his beloved Mercedes, but it contained his briefcase, which contained his tasting notes. A disaster of monumental proportions, outweighing the distress of his physical injuries. To recover, of course, Cooker heads to a wonderful Chateau hotel in the Tours region for rest, recuperation and wine.
Needless to say, his path quickly crosses with that of a murderer, when two people - the companion of a flamboyant British wine lover, and the concierge of his hotel both end up dead in quick succession. This leads to much conjecture on the possible connections between the victims. Cooker and Virgile, however, soon reunited with the missing Mercedes, are heading to Cooker's dear friend, Huber de Boüard, of Château Angélus fame, who has been the victim of a series of baffling wine burglaries followed by cryptic messages from the thieves.
The matter of murder is undoubtedly important, but the theft of valued wine stocks is also a national catastrophe as far as Cooker is concerned. But the resolution of both of these threads must be pursued in the correct manner, and the tasting and enjoying of various wine varieties along the way is of vital importance. It seems that Cooker thinks best when seated at a tasting table, or that of a much loved local eatery.
Cooker is wonderfully ambiguous - an insufferable know it all, astute observer and solver of many problems, there's a gentle side to him in THE GRAND CRU HEIST which is most touching. His poor assistant Virgile is very often put upon, and the commentary on food, other people, surroundings and everyone else is frequently hilarious, all very much part of the fun of these books. This series has proven to be enormously entertaining, and THE GRAND CRU HEIST, a very short novel, is up there with the rest of the series. Not just because, I hasten to clarify, it's impossible to read them without a glass of something (slightly more local) in your hand.
Review - THE 7TH WOMAN, Frédérique Molay (translated by Anne Trager)
There's no rest for Paris's top criminal investigation division, La Crim'. Who is preying on women in the French capital? How can he kill again and again without leaving any clues? A serial killer is taking pleasure in a macabre ritual that leaves the police on tenterhooks. Chief of Police Nico Sirsky—a super cop with a modern-day real life, including an ex-wife, a teenage son, and a budding love story—races against the clock to solve the murders as they get closer and closer to his inner circle. Will he resist the pressure?
Le French Book have released some excellent French crime fiction, translated into English, of which THE 7TH WOMAN by Frédérique Molay is already an international bestseller. As the blurb puts it "Winner of France's prestigious Prix du Quai des Orfèvres prize for best crime fiction, named Best Crime Fiction Novel of the Year, and already an international bestseller with over 150,000 copies sold."
A police procedural built around Chief of Police Nico Sirsky, there is a serial killer stalking and killing women in a macabre and vicious manner. The connection between these woman is obscure, and seems to be pointing towards some highly specialised knowledge. Right into the heart of Sirsky's family. The pressure is further ramped up because this killer is leaving messages that indicate he's going to kill 7 women in 7 days. And it's up to Sirsky to catch him.
Despite the serial killer storyline having been done to death, there's aspects here that help lift it - the personal grudge of killer against cop isn't that surprising, although the pathways into making this a very personal investigation are unusual. The new love under threat aspect again isn't that new, but the complication of the ex-wife and the teenage son make for something a little different. The character of Sirsky is your classic divorced, lonely, suddenly smitten older man, who is balancing a complicated relationship with his ex-wife and teenage son. His attraction to a new love interest is touching and nicely balanced, even with some obvious threats and implications.
This is now sounding like there wasn't a lot to like about THE 7TH WOMAN which is very far from the truth. Around the predictable elements, this was a strong character study, and a solid procedural with a really involving and interesting supporting cast, and a very strong, central investigator of the rumpled, slightly lost type. For anybody interested in crime fiction from other locales, then the Paris Homicide series would be well worth looking for. THE 7TH WOMAN is the first book, followed by CROSSING THE LINE and, due for release in 2015, THE CITY OF BLOOD.
Review - NIGHTMARE IN BURGUNDY, Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen,
The Winemaker Detective leaves his native Bordeaux to go to Burgundy for a dream wine tasting trip to France's other key wine-making region. Between Beaune, Dijon and Nuits-Saint-Georges, it urns into a troubling nightmare when he stumbles upon a mystery revolving around messages from another era. What do they mean? What dark secrets from the deep past are haunting the Clos de Vougeot? Does blood need to be shed to sharpen people's memory? A made-for-TV series.
The third in the Winemaker Detective series, NIGHTMARE IN BURGUNDY takes our hero Benjamin Cooker away from his native Bordeaux to Burgundy, where he is being named Chevalier du Tastevin by the Knights of the order that are proud of their slogan 'Never whine, always wine!'.
Which will probably give you a little bit of an indication of the tone of this charming series, set deep in the world of French wine, and the intrigues that seem to pile up alongside it. In NIGHTMARE IN BURGUNDY this intrigue revolves mostly around a series of extremely erudite graffiti attacks which start to show up around the small town that Cooker is visiting. In Latin, ultimately identified as quotations from one of the more sobering Psalms, our graffiti writer doesn't seem to be any ordinary teenager, despite the locals taking matters somewhat precipitously into their own hands.
This series is one of those perfect little morsels for fans of all sorts of crime fiction. For the cosy fans this is a perfect way to immerse yourself in a beautiful place and a very different background industry. There are deaths, but they are almost off-screen, the puzzle of the Psalm and what the graffiti is trying to tell its readers is the point of the story. For fans of the darker side, there's enough plot here to keep the reader occupied, and whilst the style is a little on the arch, vaguely amused with itself side, it's not going to result in an overdose of the cutes.
It also doesn't hurt that the books come with a wonderful sense of place. Some of the descriptive elements are positively glorious. Then there's a sprinkling of wine education, a bit of local history, and even a brush up of your Latin.
As is this reader's usual wont, I've gotten out of sequence, and have now read the first and the third books, although I'm definitely going to catch up with the second at some point. NIGHTMARE IN BURGUNDY is an unusual setting for crime and an unusual plot into the bargain, but it is done well, with a central character who is definitely on the eccentric side. Which suits him very well.
YOUNG PHILBY - Robert Littell
When Kim Philby fled to Moscow in 1963, he became the most notorious double agent in the history of espionage. Recruited into His Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service at the beginning of World War II, he rose rapidly in the ranks to become the chief liaison officer with the CIA in Washington after the war. The exposure of other members of the group of British double agents known as the Cambridge Five led to the revelation that Philby had begun spying for the Soviet Union years before he joined the British intelligence service.
You can't help thinking that this is an interesting idea for a book, the story of one of the most famous real-life spies, told from the point of view of Philby's own life. Now the book and it's publicity material is quite tricky about the background of this book. Whilst there's nothing there to indicate whether or not this is a true story or fictional, it's written in a way that implies that the whole thing is the true story of Kim Philby's early years.
YOUNG PHILBY is however, a novel. It expands on what is known about Philby's life after Cambridge University (where he, Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt formed the truth-life Cambridge Spy Ring), but embroiders the facts with the fictional imaginings of the author, Littell, about how he came to learn his spycraft, and the people and influences that guided his activities. Told from a variety of different viewpoints, YOUNG PHILBY takes the reader back to the time at which Philby is recruited, time that he spends with his handlers, lovers and friends, the time in which he learns and masters the art of surviving as a double agent.
You'd think, because of the inherent danger in the life that Philby was setting up for himself, this should be an extremely compelling story, even allowing for the fictional excursion, but for some reason it just didn't come alive for this reader. Part of the problem seemed to be that the story is told from a series of different viewpoints, which I rapidly found almost impossible to tell apart. Men, women, participants, observers, there's was a constant tone throughout the book that didn't clearly distinguish each of the various players. The other problem was that everyone seemed cynical, bored, frequently arch and whilst that could have been trying to create some sort of overall feeling of insouciance, what it ended up doing was make everyone seem rather bored. Which kind of made this reader rather bored with the lot of them.
Because tone is such a very personal thing, and because there are also readers who don't mind the fictional playing a bit loose and fast with real life history, YOUNG PHILBY is a novel that could really work for other readers. Ones that like the cynicism, that can find depth in the people, that are intrigued by the imaginings of what could have happened in Philby's life, and who rather enjoy the peek behind a fictional curtain on real-life espionage.
THE PARIS LAWYER - Sylvie Granotier
As a child, Catherine Monsigny was the only witness to her mother's death. 20 years later as an ambitious attorney in contemporary Paris, she catches a professional break when her boss assigns her to major felony case in rural France. An immigrant stands accused of poisoning her husband, but her secrets are not the only ones hidden in the scenic rolling hills of Creuse. While preparing the defence, Catherine is reunited with images of own past and a high-intensity search for two murderers ensues. Who can she believe? And what will Catherine do with her past should she discover it?
It is always a pleasure to come across publishers who are bringing works from different cultures to the English-reading world, particularly when there is such a strong sense of place in the books I've been lucky enough to read from Le French Book (http://lefrenchbook.com/). THE PARIS LAWYER has a particular French sensibility, combined with a clever take on lawyer based crime fiction.
The Parisian Lawyer is Catherine Monsigny, a young lawyer whose earliest memories are fleeting glimpses of the day that her mother was murdered. Her debut criminal trial involves an enigmatic immigrant, accused of murder, a defence harder to build because this person seems to have come from nowhere. Called out of Paris to assist her client, the case triggers Monsigny to confront her own history. Along the way she develops a relationship with a strange man who may have an ulterior motive for his pursuit of her.
One of the most interesting aspects of THE PARIS LAWYER is how what starts of as a slightly meandering, low key sort of a story, builds into something that becomes extremely involving. It's almost sneaky how the combination of an isolated location, a man with a secret and a central character with a confronting past, all combine as Monsigny's investigation into her own background and the defence of the murder accused, twist and turn together. The story deftly balances the idea of a lawyer, trial based book; with many of the aspects of a psychological thriller.
Whilst much of the standard formula of a psychological thriller is twisted on its head early in the book, and Monsigny's reveals her insecurity, there is a further twist that may or may not work for many readers. At some point in the search for the murderer of her mother, Monsigny becomes even more preoccupied with what the mother she never had a chance to know was really like, and hence who she is herself. At that point the book becomes increasingly less about the who and more about the why. What is driving many of the central characters, why they do what they do, and who they really are. For this reader it added an extra layer, and there was absolutely no reason not to follow where the author was leading.
The only other problem is likely to be in the way that many of the plot elements are left unresolved at the end of the book. Not necessarily a bad thing, unless that lack has no apparent reason. Be it to allow the reader some thinking material, or because everything in life is not automatically wrapped up neatly, unresolved elements aren't automatically an issue as far as this reader is concerned. Unfortunately here, some of the elements left hanging at the end of THE PARIS LAWYER didn't leave a question to consider, instead they contributed to the feeling of a bit of a mad scramble to the end.
Fortunately these minor problems did not lessen any enjoyment of THE PARIS LAWYER at all. It is a refreshing, different, challenging approach to some standard and not so standard crime fiction norms.
TREACHERY IN BORDEAUX - Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen
Strange things are happening at the Moniales Haut-Brion wine cellars in Bordeaux. Who would want to target this esteemed vintner? World-renowned wine specialist turned gentleman detective Benjamin Cooker and his sidekick Virgile Lanssien search the city and the vineyards for answers, uncovering mysteries lurking in the shadows of prestigious estates.
Living on the edge of the Pyrenees (the ones in Victoria, Australia), surrounded as we are by wineries and winemakers, it's was a rather interesting experience to find myself reading TREACHERY IN BORDEAUX which is steeped in wine-making tradition, methodology, and a dash of intrigue.
TREACHERY IN BORDEAUX is the first in a series of books that are likely to be compared to the Number 1 Ladies Detective agency, if for no other reason than its incredibly strong sense of place and culture. Plus, whilst the book is crime fiction, there's not a murder in sight. This is a very different, dare I say, very French sort of a crime.
The book relies heavily on the development of the central, somewhat eccentric and rather bombastic character Benjamin Cooker. Cooker might be a man who agonises over his professional reputation when it comes to his wine based writings, but is also very firm in his position about life, food, wine and his place in the world. To this reader he seemed like an unusual combination of a quintessentially English Frenchman, and there are times when you wonder how it is that his new sidekick Virgile Lanssien doesn't simply throw his hands in the air and walk away. It also builds a picture of a very particular world. That of the winemakers, of ancient and revered wine cellars, of the pressures of modern life and the relentless urban push. It has a message about the destruction of tradition that particularly resonated.
TREACHERY IN BORDEAUX is not, however, a book for action fans. It takes forever for anything like the crime to occur, and you'd be forgiven if you kind of missed it in all the wine facts (why was I hearing Oz Clarke and James May's voices all the time....). It's definitely a book for fans of expertise, of eccentricity and of a strong sense of place and people. Benjamin Cooker could be exactly the sort of wine-buff that makes some of us roll our eyes and mutter under our breath a little, but if you can handle the slightly superior tone, and see it with the humour implied, it is the perfect book for people who might like a little treachery with their evening glass of Bordeaux, a little history and tradition with their Merlot.
About the Publisher: Le French Book (http://www.lefrenchbook.com/ is a digital-first publisher that brings France's best crime fiction, thrillers, novels, short stories, and non-fiction to new readers across the English-speaking world. If we love it, we’ll translate it.
DEATH IN THE LATIN QUARTER - Raphael Cardetti
Early one morning in Paris, the tranquillity of the Sorbonne University is shattered by a death. But why would Albert Cadas, a quiet, crumpled professor of medieval literature, have any reason to kill himself. Meanwhile, Valentine Savi, a talented young restorer, receives a visit from an enigmatic elderly gentleman with a unique commission: to restore a priceless manuscript whose time-worn pages promise to reveal the truth of a mystery that has fascinated scholars and writers for centuries.
DEATH IN THE LATIN QUARTER is the first novel by Raphael Cardetti, translated from the original French, released in English in 2010. Categorised on the cover as a "treasure-hunt tale", this is a book set in the halls of academia and the world of art collection, restoration and museums.
The story, as outlined in the blurb, revolves around Valentine Savi, a talented young restorer, taking in private commissions to clean and restore artwork on behalf of the great general public. She has fallen from grace, fired from a prestigious job after a mistake, which is slowly revealed as the book goes on. After being approached by an enigmatic elderly man with a unique commission, she quickly finds herself involved in nefarious plots to possess an ancient manuscript and the secrets it allegedly holds.
Okay, up front, I really really struggled to finish this book. Originally I thought it might be a slight personal wariness that I feel about these great artwork / secrets from the past / enigmatic old millionaires / playing fast and loose with everyone around them type scenarios. There were a number of things that worried me about this book: why we couldn't just confirm what had happened to make Savi lose her job so that we could all move on (it wasn't hard to take an educated guess after all). Why the Dean even had time to develop such a hump with some poor hapless student (and quite what all that was supposed to be about anyway). Why so many millionaire art-collectors have to be "enigmatic"; and most of all why their assistants have to be gorgeous, wound up like a top, perfectly coiffed blonde women (for that matter why are their bodyguards always "disguised" as the chauffeur and built like the proverbial without a brain cell to spare). And I haven't even mentioned the compound, the state of the art security system that wasn't, and the security consultant who would have been better paying more attention to the aforementioned state of the art security system, and a lot less to lusting after the main female characters. Whilst these sorts of books are very much about the manipulation of the reader experience, there must be something in the storytelling that makes the reader willing to go along with the obvious tension building, and I couldn't, no matter how hard I tried, swallow a lot of it.
At one point I thought I'd nailed the problem, assuming I'd missed a subtle sense of humour. Maybe the story was teasing me, it was supposed to be slightly tongue in cheek, and I'd misread the tone completely... Toiling on through the book, I looked for these signs, but I simply couldn't find them. Instead I found an increasing pile of overt red herrings, a bit of romantic tension, much rushing around and a hefty dose of telegraphed character-jep that would have made a movie fan pitch Jaffa's at the screen. As the pace tried to pick up in the book, my ability to stick with it was getting less and less. The villains were too much, the bad guy too obvious, the characterisations too clichéd and the plot too transparent for my taste.
THIS NIGHT'S FOUL WORK - Fred Vargas
On the outskirts of Paris, two men are discovered with their throats cut. In Normandy, two stags have been killed and their hearts cut out. Meanwhile, a seventy-five-year old nurse who had murdered several of her patients has escaped from prison. Is there a connection between the three cases?
Being more than a little bit fond of the Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg series I was very annoyed with myself when I got a bit behind with the releases and had to make an effort to catch up. Poor me. So tragic. Having to spend some time with one of my favourite, eccentric detectives and the rest of his team of mildly odd compatriots.
THIS NIGHT'S FOUL WORK sees Adamsberg team pretty well settled, so the introduction of any new lieutenant could be complicated. Louis Veyrenc is even more disruptive, with his tendency to speak in verse (twelve-syllable alexandrines to be accurate), to say nothing of his oddly striped hair and his deeply held, childhood grudge against Adamsberg. Which grudge Adamsberg is pretty well oblivious to until slapped over the head with the evidence. He's somewhat preoccupied by the return into his life of old nemesis Ariane Legarde, pathologist, and Adamsberg enemy since he questioned her conclusions in a case twenty-three years earlier. But there are crimes at the centre of this book and typically baffling at that. You can only guess at what the connection could be between the ritual killing of stags in the hills of Normandy, two local "lads" found murdered after raiding the graves of recently deceased spinsters, and the escape from prison of a seventy-five-year old multiple killer nurse that Adamsberg has dealt with before.
Needless to say THIS NIGHT'S FOUL WORK has a wonderful feeling of the Gothic about it. Odd glimpses of shadowy figures creeping around graveyards; curses past and present; places with strange histories; things going bump in the night in Adamsberg's new house; childhood grudges; deeply held beliefs; long enmities and friction. Lots and lots of friction. All of action swirls around Adamsberg as he sort of floats through life. He's more a cerebral than rush around detective, prone to leaps of faith and acute observations - his odd behaviour is no longer regarded as anything out of the ordinary by a team which kind of specialises in odd behaviour. But this team is also capable of immense kindness, understanding and support for each other - they are the perfect group to spend time with if you like things just that little bit batty.
If you're not aware of this series - Fred Vargas is the pen name of Frédérique Audouin-Rouzeau, French medievalist and archaeologist. Vargas, as of THIS NIGHT'S FOUL WORK a twice winner of the Duncan Lawrie International Dagger award, is translated by Siân Reynolds who does a sterling job at translating the language but keeping the overall feel and quirkiness of the books.
Just a quick word of warning - I rather like a series where it doesn't matter if you get them all out of order. In the main I've read the Adamsberg books all over the place but in this case, with the next book AN UNCERTAIN PLACE out already, you'd really be best to read THIS NIGHT'S FOUL WORK first. Without this, earlier, book I suspect a reader could get bamboozled otherwise as there's a lot of setup for AN UNCERTAIN PLACE in THIS NIGHT'S FOUL WORK.
Needless to say I just love these books. But really - don't read them if you're looking for precise behaviour, keen logic, rules and regulations being followed, and no idiosyncrasies. Do read them if you're looking for humour, darkness, quirky, a hugely entertaining police procedurals... well police scenarios. Let's go with that...
ZULU - Caryl Ferey
As a child, Ali Neuman narrowly escaped being murdered by Inkatha, a militant political party at war with Nelson Mandela's African National Congress. His father and brother were not so lucky. Only he and his mother survived the carnage of those years. But as with many survivors, the psychological scars remain. Ali has been marked, indelibly, by the brutality of those years, and healing only comes at a price.
Unbelievably violent, amazingly confrontational, searingly honest and profoundly emotional, ZULU is one of those books that you may have to read through spread fingers, but it is almost impossible to put this book down until it screeches to an ending that will make you shudder.
This is noir, critical, brutal writing at it's absolute best. The "Zulu" of the title refers not so much to the tribe as a whole, but to Cape Town homicide captain Ali Neuman. Heading up the investigation into the death of a young woman whose body is found with a crushed skull, Neuman accepts that his job must sometimes mean that he's put in difficult situations. His profound belief in the job he does comes from his childhood - when he was a young boy he was forced to watch the ritualised murders of his father and brother. He grew up with an overwhelming desire to put an end to the lawlessness that plagues his country. Regardless of other people's reactions to him or the colour of his skin.
There's nothing particularly uncommon about the idea that a central protagonist is fighting his own demons, or even battling against unsympathetic or antagonist authorities. What is different in the portrayal of these elements in ZULU is the context. Neuman's demons are the violent murders of his brother and father; the political complications of South African society; the appalling violence and disadvantage of the townships; attacks on his elderly mother. Murder rates that are simply breathtaking; AIDS; desperation; the disregard for life - it's all laid bare, raw and yet, there's also some sense of poignancy. There's love, affection, regard and concern for others. There's even humour and acceptance. Put all of that into a book that is written with a cynical, forthright style that is absolutely no holds barred. Then add more ways of killing and maiming and hurting people than even in your worst moments you couldn't have dreamed up and build the action and the reader's interest into a really interesting and likeable central protagonist. Then tear the rule book up and add a twist at the end that will just blow some readers out of the water, and what you've got is an intelligent, thought-provoking, frightening, fascinating and unputdownable book about a society that is still dealing with the impacts of Apartheid and profound societal upheaval.
ZULU isn't a book that is going to do much for the South African tourism industry, but it is a book that simply took my breath away.