BLOOD SAFARI by Deon Meyer

Book Quote:

“Humanity. The greatest plague the planet has ever known…too many people…If a man must choose between wealth and conservation, wealth will always win. We will always overexploit, we will never be cured.”

Book Review:

Review by Mary Whipple (OCT 3, 2009)

Setting his novels in contemporary South Africa, Deon Meyer raises the bar for thrillers by infusing each of his novels with the national political tensions—historical, racial, and economic—and the urban and rural disparities which make the country so complex and so difficult to govern. His “heroes” have traditionally been far from “heroic” in the traditional sense, always people at odds with society, especially in the case of Lemmer, main character (and hired bodyguard) in Blood Safari, a man who has allowed his passions to dominate him to the extent that he served time for his assault on four men and gained pleasure in killing the ringleader—“I felt at one with the world, whole and complete, good and right. It’s a terrible thing. It intoxicates. It’s addictive. And so terribly sweet.”

Lemmer, working for Body Armor, the premier bodyguard service in the country, has been hired to watch over Emma le Roux, a wealthy young woman who, after seeing a news story on TV, believes that her brother Jacobus le Roux, thought dead for twenty years, is, in fact alive after being a suspect in a mass murder in Kruger National Park—the death of a sangoma (a traditional healer) and three elephant poachers. Emma herself has recently been targeted by unknown assassins and has barely escaped from her house after a violent attempt on her life. She has no idea whether her suspicions about her brother are correct, nor does she have any idea what motive might inspire evil-doers to attack her so viciously.

Her brother Jacobus, four years older, was always interested in conservation, especially the conservation of the animal life in South Africa, and he worked at the Kruger Park, where he disappeared twenty years ago. A man calling himself Jacobus de Villiers has worked at the Moholololo Rehabilitation Center, which nurses ill and wounded vultures, and at a private reserve, run by a multimillionaire, which tries to keep large areas of the veld free of development for a natural animal habitat.

As Lemmer and his client, Emma le Roux, try to find out if the Jacobus de Villiers whom she saw on TV is, in fact, her brother, they are exposed the life-or-death infighting among the various conservation groups, their relationships with conservation police and local law enforcement, and the relationships and conflicts of these groups with developers and local tribes who want a piece of the tourist game-park action. Violence is a way of life for these people, and Lemmer is often in the cross-hairs of his and Emma’s unknown enemies.

Meyer is careful to include all the players in the game here, allowing him to present all the facets of the big picture regarding the wildlife bounty of the country and the lures of development, the commitment to a lawful country under unified rule and the every-man-for-himself attitudes which have undermined every aspect of the country over the years. No one knows whom to trust, if anyone, and no one knows what secret arrangements any of the players may have made with sleazy operators or money-mad groups which exist outside the mainstream. As the characters develop more fully, and as the author reveals more and more information about their backgrounds, the reader’s stake in the outcome becomes more and more powerful. The action comes fast and furious, and the suspense builds.

Meyer creates vibrant scenes, describing the environment, the local settings, the animals, and the racial interactions of South Africa’s citizens in vivid detail. The people who oppose Lemmer’s investigation are understandable in their reluctance to go along with him, and their points of view are broad and not tritely black or white. Irony abounds, and the political and social repercussions of the action become understandable even if they do not always draw the reader’s sympathy. This is a terrific and unusual thriller, the fifth of Meyer’s novels, all of which are written in Afrikaans and translated, and each of which has been better than the last.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 37 readers
PUBLISHER: Atlantic Monthly Press (August 25, 2009)
REVIEWER: Mary Whipple
AMAZON PAGE: Blood Safari
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our reviews of:

Dead at Daybreak

Heart of a Hunter


October 3, 2009 · Judi Clark · 2 Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2009 Favorites, Character Driven, Class - Race - Gender, South Africa, Thriller/Spy/Caper, World Lit

2 Responses

  1. brody - October 3, 2009

    Great review, Mary. I read this book and loved it. I’ve posted over 1,000 reviews for Amazon and this is the only thriller that I’ve rated a ‘5’. I loved the character-driven nature of this book. Often, thrillers are full of actions and the characters are two-dimensional. Not in Blood Safari. The characters of Lemmer, Emma and Jacobus really stood out for me. I purchased all of his other books and they are on my tbr list.

  2. Mary Whipple - October 11, 2009

    Deon Meyer just keeps getting better and better. The author has a photo gallery on his website, which is terrific. . I was surprised, originally, at the idea of a rehabilitation center for vultures, probably the ugliest birds in creation, but when I discovered the reason (the wanton killing of vultures for body parts because they are believed to ward off certain kinds of evil) and the fact that the killing of vultures has led to the spread of disease in wildlife sanctuaries because the vultures are not there to dispose of the carrion before disease can spread, it all made sense. Best, Mary

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