Dead at Daybreak Review
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Zatopek “Zet” van Heerden is a former Cape Town cop who’s fighting the demons of his past—and losing—when an old associate bails him out of jail and connects him with an attorney who needs his help. The attorney, Hope Beneke, has just one week to locate the will of an antiques dealer named Johannes Jacobus Smit who was tortured and killed months earlier. The murderer emptied the contents of Smit’s large walk-in safe—and if van Heerden and Beneke don’t find the will, Smit’s common-law wife, Wilna van As, will be left with nothing.

Van Heerden digs deeper into Smit’s case and comes up with plenty of information that the police had missed. First, the only thing left in the safe was a currency wrapper—one that had been used decades earlier to wrap US dollars. Second, Johannes Jacobus Smit didn’t exist before 1983—and the identification that he carried was counterfeit. The information that he gathers sends him back to a past life—to old colleagues and old connections. It even puts him in the way of military intelligence. And it becomes more and more obvious that someone will stop at nothing to make sure that Smit’s real identity stays hidden.

  
 
Dead at Daybreak tells two stories. The first is the story of van Heerden’s search for Smit’s will. The second is the story of van Heerden himself. Meyer fluctuates between the two, interspersing the story of van Heerden’s present with that of his past—the events and people who led him to his line of work, as well as the events and people who led to his fall from glory. Mixed into these captivating stories, you’ll find details that bring the troubled past and the recovering present of South Africa to life.

South African writer Deon Meyer carefully weaves together two gripping stories. Though it takes a while to get into them—and to get used to Meyer’s storytelling methods—it’s well worth the read. It’s suspenseful and thought-provoking and even artistic—a great addition to any crime buff’s bookshelf.

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