Deon Meyer has been on my list of authors to read for quite a long time now, and I chose to start with Devil’s Peak because it’s the first of the Benny Griessel series. It does feature a character from an earlier novel in a central role, so my plans to be unspoiled by starting with this book were foiled. I was very impressed with the beginning: the writing was good, the characters were very complicated, but by the end I was disappointed with the plot.
Griessel is an inspector leading an investigation into the murders of people accused of hurting children. He’s an alcoholic policeman with marital troubles, which is a story I’ve read before, but his experience as a policeman both before and after apartheid and the differences in those organizations (it was the Force during apartheid and the Service after) made the novel stand out to me. Meyer divides the story among Griessel the investigator, Tiny Mpayipheli the killer, and a young woman who is a sex worker who is making some sort of confession to a minister.
It’s an interesting structure with interesting characters, but a couple things bothered me: First, it’s a vigilante story. I’m not very interested in this theme (I’m almost as tired of vigilantes as I am of serial killers) even though this book features the twist that there is a vigilante in a country that recently abolished the death penalty. Second, the final fifty pages falter plot-wise. It features a plot twist that I see all too often in thrillers (I’m trying to avoid spoilers), and the last batch of antagonists is a very cruel and violent crew who aren’t really developed as characters.
I saw a lot of promise in the first half of the book, and I hope that other Meyer books don’t use such overused plots.