Captain Mat Joubert is sinking under the weight of his despair, still grieving the death of his wife two years and three months ago, his attention to police work slipping noticeably and his connection to life failing miserably. He has been in pain for too long, considering the only option that makes sense. When the sudden attention of a young girl occasions a surge of unexpected feelings, challenging his long slide into oblivion, it occurs to Joubert that he may not be ready to face the Grim Reaper. It's just as well. Under the leadership of a new commanding officer, the first black minister of law and order, the Department of Murder and Robbery is officially a part of the new South Africa, post-apartheid. Bart de Wit is enigmatic and demanding, requiring all the men in his command to shape up, physically and mentally, their jobs contingent on sufficient progress in every aspect of their lives.
Joubert acquiesces while dealing with a baffling new case: someone is shooting civilians point blank, with no apparent motive. Still reeling from his return to the living, Joubert grapples with awakening emotions and a desire to stop the senseless murders that are terrifying South Africans, while De Wit contentiously monitors his every move. Besides the tension Meyer brings to his novels, the character development is multi-layered and uniquely human, the inner turmoil of Captain Joubert; his friend and co-worker, the alcoholic Detective Sergeant Benny Griessel, whose job is on the line; the wife of the first victim, Margaret Wallace (she of the strangely colored eyes); even his assigned therapist. It is this combination of humanity and criminality that renders Meyer's novels irresistible, tapping into the utter horror of random murders and the devastation such acts leave in their wake. Opening up to life after his dark night of the soul, Joubert can hardly ignore the gritty reality of the criminal elements that define his work as a detective, particularly the seemingly random murders he must bring to an end. More than a police procedural, Dead Before Dying is solid, tightly-plotted and unpredictable, the new South Africa more recognizable with each Meyer title, the violence universal. Luan Gaines/2006.