Heart of the Hunter Mass Market Paperback – Jul 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
A hulking black motorcycle-shop janitor named Tiny is the unlikely hero of this frantic, intelligent thriller by a South African crime writer. Tiny (aka Thobela Mpayipheli aka Umzingeli, the Hunter) is a former KGB-trained assassin who plied his trade in service of the struggle against apartheid. He is now a peace-loving family man, but when a plea for help comes from the daughter of an old friend, he is forced to race across the country on a motorcycle to deliver a coveted disk, chased by a homicidal special forces commander. His fear of revisiting the violence of his past feels real—the sincere hesitation of a dark-skinned man in a country where violent acts multiply like viruses, especially where black blood is involved. "His hands so terribly ready to kill, his brain clattering out the knowledge of the vital points on the soldier's body like machine gun fire, despairing, don't, don't, don't..." In other ways, this is a standard thriller complete with CIA involvement, an appearance by Muslim extremists and a loose, rat-a-tat prose that keeps pages turning. The central plot twist is predictable and too few of the many story lines are resolved, but the freshness of the context and the emotional complexity of the hero's journey are ample compensation for readers who want a more thought-provoking spy story.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* Thobela Mpayipheli has settled into a sedate but rewarding life with the woman he loves. He works as a gofer at a South African motorcycle shop and readies his partner's young son for life on a farm--until an ex-boss asks him to perform a dangerous favor. His Xhosa warrior's heart racing, Thobela soon finds himself driving hard toward Nigeria with a hard drive full of secrets the unified government wishes to file away for good. Thrillingly competent at evading the police, intelligence services, and even a crack paramilitary team, Thobela struggles with the novel's core question--Can people change their essential nature?--while the authorities uncover his deadly past as a weapon of the antiapartheid movement on loan to the Soviet bloc. Like John le Carre's The Tailor of Panama, this novel examines the rippling horrors too often caused by so-called intelligence agents working for foreign masters in backwater nations. With simmering racial tensions, a bounty of natural resources, and a government whose members worked both sides of the cold-war fence, South Africa should prove fertile ground for many fine spy thrillers to come. Don't be surprised if quite a few of them are written by Meyer. Frank Sennett
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
His violent past returns when a distraught Monica Kleintjes informs him that his old compatriot in arms her father Johnny needs his help. Tiny owes Johnny so when Monica asks him to deliver a disc to terrorists because if they are not handed over to them by a certain time they will kill her father. He accepts the mission bur the CIA, al Qaeda, the government, and other agencies also want the disk. Killing a retired assassin to obtain what they want is fine by everyone involved as Tiny learns how perilous a friend in need is and how deadly competition can be to the "supplier".
This exciting post apartheid and 9/11 thriller never slows down especially when everyone seems to be chasing after Tiny (actually he is sort of a South African Little John) fleeing on a stolen motorcycle. Tiny is a terrific center of gravity as he keeps the tale moving and focused while the support cast either enables a deep look into the HEART OF THE HUNTER or want to kill him. Cape Town and the surrounding countryside make a fabulous background to the escapades. Though over the top at times, Deon Meyer provides an action packed suspense thriller starring a fabulous hero.
A society is defined by the agencies that conduct the business of the people. Developed by the South African Presidential Intelligence Unit (PIU), designed from an intelligence-specific prototype, the Reaction Unit (RU) falls somewhere between a counter-terrorist organization and hostage rescue unit, similar to the British Special Air Services. The creators of the RU have dark dreams of redemption from a shameful past in South African human relations and, given an opportunity to prove the superiority of the unit, envision new beginnings for a country struggling to redefine its political and social systems.
Thobela Mpayipheli, a six-foot-three giant of a man with a gentle heart, has finally found contentment in his life, living quietly with his woman and her young son. A former member of Umkhonto we Sizwe ("the spear of the nation"), part of the black resistance when South Africa was fighting for racial balance and equality. Thobela, AKA Tiny, has made a covenant with himself and those he loves, putting the violence forever behind him. But when an old friend from the past makes a request, it is a call to honor that must be met. Thobela must act as his conscience dictates, aware of what is at stake when he allows his natural instincts to resurface. Tiny is the unknown quantity in the equation, the one man to test the raison d'etre of the RU.
Like all bureaucracies, once set in motion with agendas activated, everything proceeds as planned, inexorable.Read more ›
If there is any annoyance about this writer and this book, it is that your joy of reading is limited to but a few hours. It is virtually impossible to put down this book.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Thobela, or Tiny as his friends call him, is a mysterious man that shows great kindness at moments, and cold-blooded violence at others. In a world when everyone wants to see things white or black, he presents a solid gray. This can be clearly appreciated by the reaction of the people as he goes on his quest, mounted on a powerful motorbike. Some see him as a hero, while others regard him as a dangerous man who cannot be good because he used to work as a "collector" for a drug baron. There is one reporter for the Cape Times, Allison Healy, who tries to answer the question: Is Tiny good or bad? This will provide us with valuable insight regarding the main character, but: can the question be answered with certainty?
One would thing that helping a friend that has been kidnapped would be hard enough, but Thobela has other problems too. Janina Metz, a high ranked officer in one of the intelligence agencies, had a wire that allowed her to listen to the conversation between the kidnappers and Monica. Therefore, she activated a special forces group led by a violent and vicious captain named Mazibuko. The idea is to prevent Tiny from delivering the information to the kidnappers. Thus, he is drawn into a mission filled with dangers and violence; a mission in which he will be faced with a worthy opponent in the relentless captain Mazibuko.
The exotic setting, the cleverly crafted plot, the exciting action, and the rich and complex main character, make this a novel that has it all. Deon Meyer has created a real masterpiece that is not even one notch below the work of some great authors in the genre, like John le Carré. I will be eagerly looking forward to this Meyer's new book!
Tiny is a six-foot three strongman, retired from a life of killing for hire to that of a mechanic in a motorcycle shop in a small town. He lives with the woman who changes his life, Miriam Nzululwazi, and her son, Pakamile. All three are drawn into a spider web of life changes that none can control. Tiny's former life seeks him in the form of an old friend, held captive by persons unknown, who is desperate and contacts the quiet giant.
In 1984, the complicated government of a South Africa that has emerged from its struggle for independence is the undercurrent for Meyer's plot. Distrust among competing agencies leads to players with ambition seeking their own dynasties within government departments. Prime among these is Janina Mentz, officer in charge of the Ops Room's special unit of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). Her agency intercepts a phone call from Tiny's friend, Johnny Kleintjes, to his daughter and rolls into action. Mentz's mission is to stop Tiny from delivering a disk, believed to contain sensitive government information. Mentz calls on the diabolical Tiger Mazibuko, a marine officer with no scruples, for help in the Ops mission.
Tiny's skills as a former assassin and KGB operative come into play when he sets forth on a stolen BMW motorcycle across the Cape country to deliver the tape and rescue his old friend. Adrenalin long suppressed by his present pastoral life bursts into activity when he leads his pursuers across the South African veld on a chase for survival. Meyer's description of the terrain makes his audience a part of the story, cheering for Tiny's success and the return to his new life. But we want to witness the strength and skill he possesses as part of the old. We're not disappointed.
HEART OF THE HUNTER is a wealth of information about South Africa's struggle, disparity within her infant government and identity crises in both public and private sectors. Meyer's capable scripting weaves images with identity and blends the two with incredible skill. Chapter breaks blend portions of the story into a continuous thread that connects the characters through common word bonds. For example, Tiny waits for the subject of his first assassination. "The door, dark wood, was shut again...This was not the way to wage war...not right." A section break follows. Then, "There was a bar on the door, white letters on a green background that read PUSH/DRUK, and Miriam obeyed...She realized she was in a dead end."
HEART OF THE HUNTER should be in strong demand in the American market. We'll look for more from this outstanding author.
--- Reviewed by Judy Gigstad
English Audiobook version published in 2013 by HighBridge Audio
Read by Simon Vance
Duration: Approximately 11.5 hours
Deon Meyer's novel "Heart of the Hunter" features a very large black South African man named Thobela "Tiny" Mpayipheli who used to be part of the armed resistance movement to the South Africa's Apartheid government which collapsed in 1994. He was trained by the East German secret police and was part of multiple assassinations. He had a talent for violence. When the Apartheid regime ended he suddenly found himself on the outside, an anachronism. His skills were no longer needed and it would be better for the leadership if he just went away. So, he took his skill set to a drug lord but he soon realized there was no large sense of purpose, no lofty ideals in organized crime.
At that point Mpayipheli decided to bank his money, go straight and retire completely in South Africa. He met a woman with a young son, moved in and devoted himself to this new family they created. He took a job at a motorcycle repair place and everything seemed to be just about as perfect as anyone could make it.
That is until he gets word that a trusted old friend from the old days will day unless a hard drive is delivered to Lusaka, Zambia. He decides he has to go even though his wife begs him not to. When government officials stop him from boarding a plane to Zambia his old training kicks in and he escapes and goes on the run while trying to work his way to Zambia. He borrows a high-powered BMW motorcycle and finds that he is being pursued by government officials, the police and even a special forces unit. Meanwhile, South African officials want to know what is on the hard drive and everyone is scrambling to catch him and cover everything up before the truth gets out because someone has leaked the story to the media and now everyone is wondering who the mysterious big man on the BMW is and why he is running.
Deon Meyer is a South African writer who writes in the South African language Afrikaans. I only mention it because sometimes translated works are clunky, but this book is not. But, if you are not familiar with South Africa's Apartheid history and how South Africa's role in the larger Cold War between the U.S.S.R and NATO then I would imagine this book would be quite confusing.
The audiobook was read by the incomparable Simon Vance who covered a multitude of accents, male and female characters, children and old people (the old man who writes folk songs was particularly memorable) with ease. If Simon Vance were to read my grocery list it would sound important. When he reads (performs is a more accurate term) a book it is an experience.
While this was a good book, it was not a great one. The ending was too drawn out. Too many of the different threads of the story that were meticulously laid out in the first couple of hours never did really come together (the biker clubs that are sympathetic to the mysterious rider on the BMW are a great example. They are mentioned many times because they want to express some sort of biker solidarity but when they finally appear it is only for a few seconds and they just fade away).
His code name in the CIA was Umzingeli (The Hunter). His ironical nickname in the underground is Tiny. In fact, he's a larger-than-life black man, a prince of the Xhosa tribe, a veteran of the Struggle - and a warrior so lethal that when a drug baron hears that Intelligence is going after Tiny, he advises them, "Start ordering the body bags now."
Tiny is perhaps my favorite superhero in the world of thrillers. He's an ex-assassin who has given up violence, a wonderful family man, a tender lover, a loyal friend - a good man with a dark past and sweet visions of the future. Will he fall victim to post-Apartheid politics? Or will he survive the roadblocks, the helicopter surveillance, and the vicious attacks from the country's elite Presidential Intelligence unit? I was on the edge of my armchair waiting to find out.
Not only are Tiny's adventures completely riveting. There are a variety of absorbing subplots throughout. There's a shocking spy story. And a charming romantic interest between a Rubenesque female journalist and a close friend of Tiny's - an ex-cop turned psychology professor. Intellectual readers should enjoy mulling over the professor's theories of evolutionary psychology. Action-loving readers can enjoy the professor's prowess under attack.
Deon Meyer's books are a feast of complex characters, great fight scenes, pure love, dirty politics, and glorious African landscapes. Heart of the Hunter is a particularly wonderful example of his work.
In "Tiny" Mpayipheli Deon Meyer has created a character so complicated, so tragic, so absolutely likeable, that an entire book could be dedicated just to his back story. I think that is the real strength behind this gifted writer. His characters are so alive they almost rise up off the page.
Ensconced in his new found domestic bliss Tiny is paid a visit by the daughter of an old friend. Her Dad is in trouble, being held captive in Lusaka, Zambia, 1500 miles and two borders away, and unless somebody takes a hard drive containing some very nasty data over to his captors within 72 hours he will die. Without hesitation Tiny agrees even though somewhere inside him he realizes things will never be the same again. Pursued by all the resources of a Special Ops unit in helicopters our hero "borrows" a BMW field bike from the dealership where he works and begins a knuckle biting cat and mouse chase as he heads north to his rendezvous. The plot is fleshed out by an inside view of the power struggle between the various factions of the newly founded South African Government, the presence of a CIA mole in high places, the insidious presence of the media and the need to accommodate them, and even a friendly motor cycle gang that wants a piece of the action.
An essential part of reading any book by Meyer is the chance to learn something about the recent history of South Africa. The hero, Mpayipheli, is a member of the Xhosa tribe, a reference worth looking up before you tackle this work. Also worthwhile, although not essential to an enjoyment of the story, is a short primer on the history of South African Independence. A glossary isn't necessary, there are a lot less colloquialisms in here than in some of his other books. Readers who are accustomed to American best sellers may feel a little let down by the lack of a blockbuster ending but the finale provided enough resolution for me. I thoroughly enjoyed this story all the way through to the end and there is no need for a big, shoot-em-up ending just to satisfy one's blood lust.
This seems an ideal book for traveling or situations where you may only get your reading done in short sessions. The characters are vivid and the plot is not confusing so you can pick up and resume where you left off without feeling lost.