Mixed Blood by Roger Smith
|Mixed Blood by Roger Smith|
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie|
|Summary: An edgy, urban crime story centred around South Africa's Cape Town. American Jack Burn is living a life of fear with his wife and young son and an unfortunate situation sees him embroiled in the seedier side of Cape Town.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: May 2011|
|Publisher: Serpent's Tail|
|External links: Author's website|
I reviewed Smith's Wake Up Dead and after reading the blurb on the back cover, this book would appear to be in a similar style. We meet Jack, his heavily-pregnant wife Susan and their young son as they relax in their smart suburban home. Smith paints a lovely picture: the setting sun, drinks on the balcony and views to die for (no pun intended here) over Table Mountain. What's not to like? But this idyll is about to take a nasty and unexpected turn for the worse as a couple of no-users, high on drugs, take their chance and break in to the Burns' home. And all this action is seen by a security guard nearby.
We get the dismal and sorry background of the guard, Benny. Poverty, crime, drugs and violence oh, not forgetting a spell in prison, have all hardened this man. He's grown a thick skin and cares for no bugger. But he does have a soft spot for his guard dog. Benny frightens young children and makes adults feels uneasy in his presence. Enter Barnard, a fat, evil, violent and corrupt policeman. Barnard is also a force to be reckoned with. He lists his hobbies as ... Jesus Christ ... and killing people. Smith gives such a vivid and thorough description of Barnard that I could almost smell his unwashed body and bad breath. He's a nasty piece of work and he's supposed to uphold the law. He's assigned to investigating the disturbance at the Burns' house. And then the plot develops with all its twists and turns.
A fast-paced and gritty cycle of violence which embroils Jack, Benny and Barnard, among others plays out on the page. Each character has his or her own agenda. Greed plays a big part. But for Jack, well, it's something else. Something that money cannot buy. The feel of the story with its pervading hopelessness and daily crime hits a slew of minor characters also. Smith has a deft touch in description and there are plenty of good lines throughout which capture the essence of 'the other side of Cape Town' - the Flats. Lines such as All the windows of the Toyota were open as he drove, but the air lay heavy as a dead whore across the Cape Flats. The women in particular are often sorry victims at the hands of violent partners.
As you might expect from a gritty, crime novel there's lot of violence, blood and broken bodies. But the difference here is that it's not gratuitous - everything has a place this book so that I was fine with the violence element (well, as fine as you can be). To keep the pot bubbling, there's also plenty of street-savvy and coarse language which gives an extra level. In summary, Smith (who himself lives in Cape Town) gives his readers a frightening taste of the area the tourists don't see. If 'gritty' is your middle name, then this book will probably tick all the boxes. Recommended.
If this book ppeals then you'll enjoy Wake Up Dead also by Roger Smith.
You can read more book reviews or buy Mixed Blood by Roger Smith at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Mixed Blood by Roger Smith at Amazon.com.
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