Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wake Up Dead: A Cape Town ThrillerWake Up Dead: A Cape Town Thriller by Roger Smith
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Roger Smith's second novel "Wake Up Dead" is definitely not in the same category as his great debut "Mixed Blood" (4 stars; my review is on Goodreads). Mr. Smith's first thriller, in addition to extreme violence and interesting plot, had depth and realistic characterizations. Both novels paint a horrifying portrait of Cape Flats, the Cape Town ghetto, but while the first book delivers acute social observation, "Wake Up Dead", also very brutal, is mostly about the plot and does not make connection between the violence and the social conditions.

Roxy, an ex-model and wife of an owner of a Cape Town agency that provides mercenary services, survives carjacking during which her husband is killed. Roxy's future is threatened by Billy Afrika, an ex-cop and a security contactor, back in Cape Town after being fired from his protection job in Iraq. A repulsive detective Maggott, one of the few non-corrupt cops, is trying to find the truth about the carjacking. These three as well as almost ten other main characters try to achieve their goals during a shaky truce between two powerful gangs. There will be blood - in mass quantities.

Everybody in Cape Flats constantly smokes meth (tik-tik), and meth-fueled vicious murders and rapes are common. Life of a black or a colored person has no value whatsoever. The violence is quite graphically described, although the climactic scenes toward the end of the novel are so theatrical that the brutality feels cartoonish. There are many well-written passages, but also several painfully bad sentences like, for example, "the elation he'd felt for the last day had drained slowly from him like stale piss down a backed-up urinal."

If you haven't read Mr. Smith, read "Mixed Blood" first. All there is in "Wake Up Dead" is the plot. The former is like a luxurious and nutritious dinner, the latter is just fast-food fare.

Two stars.

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