Written by Deon Meyer — The run of cracking South African thrillers continues with this book. 7 Days reunites us with Detective Benny Griessel, last seen in 13 Hours back in 2010. He’s a divorcee and recovering alcoholic. At this point, Benny has been sober nearly two years and is sponsoring someone Alexa Barnard. A former pop sensation, she saw her career derailed as her drinking spiralled out of control, but is now on the comeback trail. Her recovery is something he takes seriously, particularly as he’s beginning to fall for her and hopes she may be developing feelings for him. He’s balancing all of this with his job.
Benny has been transferred to an elite detective unit nicknamed The Hawks. He has the task of reinvestigating a murder gone cold. Hanneke Sloet was an attractive young lawyer with great career prospects until, 40 days ago, she was murdered in her Cape Town flat – stabbed through the chest. Apparently she knew her killer, there were no signs of a struggle. The cops who first worked the case couldn’t find anything in her work life, which took up so much of her time that there was no private life. The only things they could find were a giant dildo and some nude photographs, obviously done professionally.
Normally her file would have been left to gather dust, just another statistic, but an anonymous member of the public believes there is a police cover-up and has emailed the police demanding results and he’s threatened to shoot a police man every day until the murderer is charged. It’s a threat which he makes good on. The chase is on for Benny to make an arrest before a cop dies. The investigation leads him into murky political waters. Senior police officers do favours for politicians, and the heroes of the fight against Apartheid, previously staunch communists, feather their nests acting as go-betweens for big business and government.
The alcoholic detective is familiar to us all, but Meyer avoids cliche by having Benny work as a sponsor. How this burden eats away at Benny’s self-esteem and, especially as Alexa falls of the wagon, how all of Benny’s nagging insecurities rise to the surface, is really well done. When Meyer writes about Alexa, he tells us something about Benny as well.
The crime thriller side is front and centre too. I didn’t know who the sniper was until the author was ready, and I could really feel the tension in Benny and his team as every day another policeman is shot. Meyer writes in his native Afrikaans but 7 Days has been translated into English by KL Seegers. Any concerns over this evaporate upon reading the book. There’s nothing stilted about the translation, the words always seem natural and, in truth, if I hadn’t checked I wouldn’t have realised it was a translation at all.
13 Hours was my introduction to Benny Griessel and Deon Meyer. 7 Days is such a satisfying read that I know it won’t be my last.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars