Monday, August 3, 2009
Thriller author Roger Smith asked publisher Henry Holt to send me an ARC of Wake Up Dead, his next thriller. Mixed Blood, his first, is one of my favorite reads and I couldn't wait to finish Wake Up Dead before posting about it. As my British friends might say, I'm chuffed as little mint balls at getting my hands on an advanced copy.
As with Mixed Blood, Wake Up Dead is set in Cape Town, South Africa. The action moves between the white wealthy part of the city overlooking the ocean, the poverty ridden and gang controlled townships of Cape Flats, and Pollsmor Prison. I'll go more into the story when I write a review of the ARC but for now I'll say that it involves an American ex-model, her gunrunner husband, a mixed race ex-cop turned mercenary named Billy Afrika, an ambitious detective, and some really nasty gangbangers including one of the best psychopaths I've encountered in a thriller.
Roger's thrillers appeal to me on two levels. First, he writes a cracking good story. His characters are vividly developed, scarily so in several cases. The characters are not stereotypes and the author has given them personalities and backgrounds that enhance the action. There is extreme violence in the action but the story couldn't do without it given the setting and circumstances. The plotting and pacing make for a book hard to put down once you start reading.
The second aspect of Roger's books that grabs me is the setting, South Africa less that two decades after the end of apartheid. If you read past the action you find some hard truths in his writing. His books are fiction but when he writes about the sun and wind blasted remnant of apartheid, the dumping ground called Cape Flats or the conditions in Pollsmore Prison or the gangs, he isn't exaggerating. Those places, conditions, and people exist as he describes them. He shows us a part of South Africa that isn't flattering but you can learn something.