The mean streets of the Cape Flats

2009-11-11 00:00

BOOK REVIEW

Daddy’s Girl

Margie Orford

Jonathan Ball

WITH this third Clare Hart novel, Margie Orford places herself and her writing solidly at the forefront of the great quantity of detective fiction now emerging from South Africa. Clare is, of course, an investigative journalist turned profiler, consulted when police need to understand the motives and characteristics of criminals in order to identify patterns of behaviour and narrow the search for those who may well commit further crimes.

This time, she’s approached by Captain Riedwaan Faizal of Cape Town’s elite Gang Unit, desperate ­because his own family has been targeted as a result of his anti-gang war: his little daughter Yasmin has been abducted. Their search for the child, whose chances of survival dwindle as time passes, unravels a frightening web of ­deception and violence threatening to them both.

Faizal is an attractive character, tough and streetwise, thoroughly in command of everything except his own personal life — his marriage has crumbled and his wife intends to ­emigrate to Australia with their daughter. Even more attractive, though, is the most important character in the book, Cape Town itself, which comes alive through the colourful, but often ­lethally dangerous, inhabitants of the mean streets of the Cape Flats, and through the modern South African Police Service hierarchy, interesting and authentic. Orford writes of these things skilfully, economically, lovingly. Her ear for natural dialogue is ­assured, and she weaves ­Afrikaans and ­local argot in seamlessly, without ­either condescending to the South ­African reader or pandering to readers elsewhere. Context gives one the gist (or at least, a rough idea of it) and there’s no need for one of those glossaries — usually incomplete and packed with errors not spotted by ­inept editors –—­beloved of so many South African writers these days. A terrific read.

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