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Meyer, Deon - 'Heart of the Hunter' (translated by K L Seegers)
Paperback: 448 pages (Aug. 2012) Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks ISBN: 1444730738

The big man "Tiny" Mpayipheli, works in a small motorbike store just outside Cape Town, South Africa but has done many more exciting, but dangerous things in his youth. Now Johnny, an old friend who knows his past, has been kidnapped and is being held in Lusaka, Zambi; he has managed to send a message to his daughter Monica to go and see Tiny at the house he shares with his common-law wife and her young son. Monica wants Tiny to travel to Lusaka within the next 72 hours with a hard disk containing vital intelligence data or her father could be killed.

Tiny, accepts that he has a duty to his best friend and agrees to take the hard disk to him. He decides that the best way of getting to Lusaka it is to go by road and he 'borrows' a very large 750cc BMW GS motorbike which was a demonstration model that he and his employer were testing. He initially had tried to go by airplane but discovered that the airport was being watched by 'spooks' and he had to fight to avoid their clutches.

He starts the long journey to Lusaka which is some 1400 miles or 2300 kilometres away, but South African roads are really underused, especially outside of towns so he is able to make good time. However, the police are on the alert with their roadblocks to try and stop him but they have very poor communications and the exasperated spooks send up helicopters to try to intercept with more success. Even with such a powerful motorbike he has a very lengthy journey and for his own safety he tries to travel as far as possible at night. Of course he has to stop fairly frequently to refuel and as most South African filling stations are not self-service because labour is plentiful and cheap, Tiny has to be prepared to handle being questioned by the pump attendants.

The press and TV have got to hear of his predicament and are using all their resources to check out as much background as possible and are flashing up the details in bulletins on the TV and radio and in the newspapers, which is proving embarrassing to the police and Secret Service. They are also using all their contacts in those latter organisations to check into the background of Tiny and learn that he was trained by the KGB and East German Stasi as a hit-man or assassin and therefore one should be wary of him. The story develops through many gripping adventures until we reach the exciting conclusion.

This is the first story that I have had the opportunity to read by this very talented South African author. The characters are well crafted, rich and memorable, drawn with rare style and perception and the book was a real page turner. The detailed descriptions of South Africa were very evocative of my own experience of Cape Town of a few years ago. The writer handles issues of racism and the class structure without any comment. The book was originally published in English in 2003 but his publishers seem to be trying to introduce this exciting and very gifted author to a wider audience and have republished some of his earlier books. The book is one of eight that have now been translated from the original Afrikaans to English, the majority by the talented K L Seegers. I wish that all the books that I read were as good as this one was. The book is a great adventure and an extraordinary tour de force and I felt very moved by parts of the story. When I get the opportunity I would like to read all of his other titles as I enjoyed this one immensely. Highly recommended.

Terry Halligan, England
October 2012

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last updated 6/10/2012 19:54