Book review – The unseemliest of odd bods

2014-02-09 14:00

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Of Cops & Robbers

Mike Nicol

Umuzi

391 pages

R175 at kalahari.com

Telegrammatic. That’s Mike Nicol for you. Pared down to its constituent parts, his sentences grab you like vital fragments, speeding you along.

Like this: “Back at the beach, Fish’s hyped. Cursing his bad luck. Cursing Colins for a stupid bastard. For trying to play the hero. Knows it for sure now: Colins is dead. Has to be.”

Most of the book is told in this heavily minimalist style and it works well for Nicol’s sort of story. You wouldn’t really call it a plot, because there aren’t any great twists or sudden revelations that are likely to blow you away. That’s not Nicol’s kind of thing. There’s just a steady unveiling of who did what and why, and what’s going to happen to them because of it. And what’s going to happen to them is rarely very kind.

Known for his often dark and brutal crime thrillers set in Cape Town, Nicol’s latest romp has its own fair share of unseemly characters. The unseemliest are the remaining members of an apartheid-era death squad, toothless Cape Flats gangsters and a disgraced former police commissioner famous for wearing crocodile skin shoes and not-so-famous for having a peccadillo for rent boys picked off Cape Town’s streets.

Trying to make sense of it all is surfer private eye Fish Pescado, whose girlfriend has an unhealthy penchant for card gambling. Throw in long-lost stashes of poached rhino horn in Angola, a Miss Landmine beauty pageant, an illegal drag race that goes wrong and a mysterious hit man. The result is a book where the difference between cop and robber is nothing but semantics.

Fans will love this book. But if you’re after something more plot-driven, then stick to Deon Meyer and Benny Griessel. Personally, I prefer Nicol.

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