Dead Before Dying Mass Market Paperback – Feb 1 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
South African journalist Meyer's first novel, his third to be released in the U.S. (after 2005's Dead at Daybreak), is a gritty existential tale with enough muscle for thriller fans and noir aficionados alike. Mat Joubert, a 34-year-old Cape Town detective, has slipped into a downward spiral two years after his wife, a fellow cop, is killed in the line of duty. Complicating matters is his newly appointed boss, Bart de Wit, a bureaucrat determined to make a name for himself in the "new" South Africa, who sends Joubert to a shrink for counseling. Joubert's opportunity at redemption comes as he investigates a bizarre series of murders committed with a century-old Mauser pistol used by the Afrikaners in the Boer war. The killer even uses vintage cartridges. Trouble is, the murders appear to be completely random and unrelated. As Joubert closes in on the killer, the plot takes an unexpected turn that will shock readers. While not up to the standard of his later Dead at Daybreak, this remains a bold, character-driven page-turner. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
*Starred Review* Hulking police captain Mat Joubert is near suicidal after the death of his wife, who was killed in the line of duty as an undercover agent. Now he's living in a kind of purgatory, an overweight chain-smoker who is inattentive to his work in the Cape Town Murder and Robbery Department. A new commanding officer, a political appointee, is on a tear, touting the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. He orders Joubert to see a psychiatrist and gives him one last chance to prove himself, putting him in charge of an investigation into a serial killer who uses a 100-year-old German handgun. Joubert desperately races to find a connection among the victims, a case the newspapers are reveling in, which, in turn, increases the pressure to solve it. Meanwhile, in prosaic fashion, Joubert struggles to bring himself back to life by chucking the cigarettes, cooking low-cal meals, and taking up swimming. Meyer subtly juxtaposes the heartbreak of the victims' families with the heartbroken detective assigned to their cases. Using humor and pathos in equal measure, Meyer builds a deeply moving portrait of a man in search of his own dignity, reclaiming his life one pool lap at a time. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Captain Mat Joubert of Capetown, South Africa, has several problems he must solve. First of all, there is a polite bandit holding up the Premier Banks. He always compliments the bank clerks as he is robs them. Second, and more pressing, is the seemingly random murders of various men in town -- all killed by an old German handgun. On top of this, Joubert must cope with the recent loss of his wife, Lara, and his new boss who wants Joubert to straighten himself out or look for another job.
DEAD BEFORE DYING is a very impressive work because the characters are so carefully and realistically created. But do not pick up this book if you are expecting a fast read. It is not a thriller. It is, rather, a book to be read slowly and savored. The plot is complex enough to keep the readers wondering until the very end. The locale is somewhat sketchily detailed, but the richly portrayed characters easily make up for that. Interestingly, the book is translated from the Afrikaans language. I met Deon and he speaks perfect English! Go figure. DEAD BEFORE DYING is the third of Meyer's works to be published in the U.S. This is a strongly recommended work.
Now, people in Cape Town, without any known connection, are being murdered with a century-old Mauser handgun and a gentleman robber is hitting branches of the Premier Bank.
Joubert and his colleagues have a new boss who is set on changing the department and those who work there. He is demanding that they not only solve cases quickly but they must also get healthy. That means lose weight, eat healthy, stop drinking and smoking and if, like Joubert, there are emotional distresses in their lives, see a psychologist.
Joubert is compelled to sort out his life, face his past and solve his cases in a last-ditch effort to save his career--and maybe even his life.
Deon Meyers is a master storyteller. Dead Before Dying is filled with action, excitement and intense tension. The characters are multi-dimensional and their work and personal lives share the stage in a manner that brings them and the story to life.
Armchair Interviews says: Since the setting is in Cape Town, there are cultural differences that Americans are not familiar with but don't let that prevent you from a good read.
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.
Mat Joubert of the South African Police has been mourning two years for his dead wife, an undercover detective murdered "in the line of duty." To add to his distress, he has a new boss, a skinny little man who's obsessed with fitness. He decrees that the whole force must lose weight if they're fat, stop smoking and drinking, and get in shape. And the boss wants cases to be solved, no excuses.
Mat's struggles to trim his stomach, deal with booze and cigarettes and exercise are heroic and pretty funny. Amazingly he keeps dieting and swimming laps all through the most perplexing case the police have seen in years. A serial killer is shooting men one by one with an antique gun. The motive is a mystery, the victims have nothing in common, and it takes the whole book for Joubert to find a useful clue.
Another perpetrator is proving just as elusive: a bank robber who changes his appearance dramatically with each robbery.
Meanwhile, Joubet's boss is making him see a psychologist for his mental health - the final indignity. Can this attractive, petite woman fix Joubert's head? Joubert has many hilarious and dramatic encounters with women in this book.
The multi-layered plot is so gripping, I didn't want the book to end and at the same time, couldn't wait to finish it. This is definitely one of my favorite Deon Meyer books, and they're all terrific.
It's an easy read, there isn't an overabundance of South African local lore and 'patois', something which a few reviewers have commented on in other books, as interfering with their understanding and enjoyment of the work. The writing has the usual high quality I've come to expect in Meyer, the characters painted solidly, with loving humor, each one unique and not a caricature, good and bad, warts and all. There's the tangible grit of a policeman's pain, the pressures, the protocol, the political inanities of life in the public service, while one's private life may be falling apart. It doesn't take long to get hooked into the story; a serial murderer who uses a rare weapon, an antique with potential historical connections, and a sub-plot with a charmingly disarming bank robber. In fact, it's a solid book all the way to the end, and then you just go "Whaa..?" in disbelief.
Perhaps if Meyer prepared you for the ending, dropping a few hints along the way, it might have been tolerable. But as it stands, you just feel cheated. Meyer is still leaps ahead of a lot of other authors in the genre, but this book was a disappointment.