Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Mixed BloodMixed Blood by Roger Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Roger Smith's "Mixed Blood" is an extraordinarily brutal thriller. Thrillers are not my favorite mystery genre, but I have read a fair number of them - certainly more than 50 - and never have I encountered scenes of similar savagery. Some of the brutality in this novel is gratuitous, but most of it is warranted and serves to convey the message of wretchedness of life in one of the world's most violent places - the ghetto in Cape Town.

Jack Burn, an American fugitive from justice (an ex-Marine and an otherwise decent fellow) lives with his family in an upscale neighborhood in Cape Town. When two gangbangers high on tik (the South African name for meth) attempt armed robbery of his house, Jack kills them. Being a fugitive, he cannot call the police. Benny Mongrel, a local ex-convict, now out of prison and working as a guard, figures out what happened. Inspector Rudi Barnard, a religious fanatic and a totally depraved policeman who loves to kill people, also discovers the killing and tries to profit from the knowledge. The three threads continually intersect each other in the well-constructed and captivating plot.

Mr. Smith vividly portrays the hopeless life in the ghetto. For the coloreds, the blacks, and the poor whites time is measured by tik hits. Murder is a normal occurrence and a social event in the neighborhood. People get necklaced with burning tires and die sizzling while being watched by cheering crowds.

Inspector Barnard's character is the most terrifying. He is a devout Christian, member of a Pentecostal congregation. He believes in a God who smites non-righteous people. As that God's fist on earth he does the smiting, killing men, women and children, pulping heads with cement blocks. What is worst is that it is not implausible.

"Mixed Blood" is unusual for yet another reason. The novel is interesting from the very beginning to the very end. The plot in most thrillers that I know begins to sag soon after the promising start. Despite the utter barbarity the novel is really outstanding, so I have no other choice but award it

Four stars.

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