I applaud author Michelle Pretorius for this novel. She managed to teach me about a completely new to me culture in an interesting way. This novel takes place in South Africa from 1901 to the present. For someone like me with no previous background on the subject, she wrote a historical thriller that managed to shock me at times.
There are dual storylines at play here. We start out during war in 1901 with a doctor performing unethical medical experiments on people. Fast forward to 2010 where we meet Alet, a constable for the Unie police, called to investigate a burned body. The story alternates between Alet’s search for a current killer and the flashbacks of how this murder relate to what happened in the past.
At one point I gasped out loud with a twist I did not see coming. Pretorius has a knack for pacing and knows just how to drop the right clues when, an amazing feat for a debut novelist. It was incredibly researched. However, this is not a novel to read when you are doing multiple things at once. You need to pay attention and focus. There’s a lot of characters and how they relate to each other is essential to your enjoyment of the story.
I did love the South African terms and titles I was unfamiliar with interspersed throughout the story. Aside from the central mystery to solve, I was learning about scientific advancements, race relations, and politics of what seems to be a corrupt system in Africa. Both storylines keep you glued to the page as the mystery unravels for both the reader and our protagonist.
About the author:
Born and raised in South Africa, Michelle received a B.A. at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein. She has lived in London, New York, and the Midwest and holds an MFA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago. She is currently a doctoral student in creative writing at Ohio University.
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