DEAD-END ROAD is third novel Detective Harry Mason novel from South African author Richard Kunzmann - the earlier books are BLOODY HARVESTS and SALAMANDER COTTON. It was the first of this series that I've read, and I'm not sure that was necessarily a wise move.
It's been a couple of years since Harry's last outing and since then he has joined the elite Serious and Violent Crimes unit. They have been assigned to the investigation of the slaying of a minor politician and his family in a township west of Johannesburg. Unsolvable, until a tip sends the unit in pursuit of a vigilante group known as the Guardians headed by two notoriously violent brothers. Things get personally bad for Harry when he is shot during a dawn raid on a remote village in pursuit of the gang.
Part of the reason I picked up this book out of order was for a group read on a discussion list, and one of the participants in that discussion had read the earlier books - which was just as well, as this book didn't seem to work as a stand-alone. Harry, I'm told is a great central character, but as he was shot very early on in this book and didn't really make much of a return appearance he was very hard to assess. Perhaps it was this act that made the book seem to lack purpose or a single focus, but for much of the action I had absolutely and utterly no idea what was going on, who was who and what the whole point was. I actually had to read the blurb to remind myself what this investigation was supposedly all about as cameo appearances from a range of characters who appeared to have no context whatsoever kept coming and going and my grip on the whole thing got fuzzier and fuzzier.
Luckily I've now got the 2 earlier books in the series so I'll pick them up when I get a chance and see if the problem was just this book (which I suspect may have been the case). And the problem with this book could very well have been me - perhaps I wasn't working hard enough, having said that, I'm not sure I want to raise a sweat just to read a book.