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Thriller set in Bushmanland, South Africa

5th November 2019

Weeping Waters by Karin Brynard, thriller set in Bushmanland, South Africa. Translated from the Afrikaans by Maya Fowler and Isobel Dixon.

Weeping Waters is tense and gripping read set in Bushmanland in the Northern Cape of South Africa. Inspector Albertus Beeslaar is a somewhat disgraced and traumatised policeman from Johannesburg who is sent to a backwater post in the middle of nowhere. He expects a quiet and boring life, but doesn’t get it…

A farm owning lady (Freddie) is murdered in gruesome circumstances. Her sister (Sara) drives up from Cape Town – and meets Beeslaar who is leading the investigation ‘aided’ by two local policemen. The outpost in the middle of nowhere is a rumour mill running riot. Freddie had a relationship with her farm manager, De Kok. He is the main and most obvious suspect. But did he do it – or was Freddie the victim of a particularly ruthless crime syndicate?

The story moves apace and there is a good and surprising reveal at the end (all of 507 pages after the start…). No more for fear of spoilers…

The book is a good thriller in its own right – but it is so much more for TripFiction lovers of location and of local customs and history. The setting is many miles away from the more familiar tourist areas of South Africa – and one about which most of us know not a lot. Old habits and customs die hard in the outback. The reader can really understand some of the tensions in the more remote regions of the country. The Afrikaans farmers are extremely wary and concerned in the post Apartheid era. Will South Africa be driven in the same direction as Zimbabwe? Will land be allocated to black farmers who (in the opinion of the white Afrikaners) won’t know what to do with it? The old order is being challenged. There are land ownership disputes between the Afrikaners and the indigenous people, who can trace their claims back many generations.

As much as a story of a very nasty crime, Weeping Waters is also about white Afrikaans vigilante groups and witchcraft and black magic. It is story of two civilisations that have lived side by side for many years – but whose equanimity is now being challenged.

Recommended for anyone who wants to read about South Africa away from the big cities.

Tony for the TripFiction team

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