For many years now the South African writer Deon Meyer has been working steadily on a corpus of great books. This book that I have just read dates from 2002 and so it is one of his earlier ones.
The main character of this book is Tobela Mpayipheli, a tall and quiet man who lives with his girlfriend Miriam Nzekelwazi and her son Pakamile. He works as a janitor at a garage where the owner keeps and sells and repairs and services motorcycles. He is fond of his girlfriend’s son and he wants to introduce him to farming life in their backyard. One day he is visited by the daughter of one of his old friends. His friend desperately needs help for he has been kidnapped by unknown people. Tobela decides to help, within 72 hours he has to finish this mission to help this old friend. He receives a hard disk from Monica that has to be transported to Lusaka in order to get his friend back to freedom.
The people in Lusaka are not the only ones who are interested in the information on the hard disk. Also one of the secret services of the South African government wants to lay hands on this information that should not reach the general public. During the days of the Struggle this man, Johnny Kleintjes, worked as an ICT man to process information. After the struggle he worked on streamlining the information of the different secret services that were active during the Struggle, both on the side of the ANC (and others) and the former apartheid rulers. During his work he decided to get back-up’s of all the information that passed through his hands. This information could serve as a much needed insurance in the future.
Tobela ‘loans’ one of the motocycles (BMW) of his boss and gets on his way to Lusaka. Unfortunately the Secret Service, run on a daily basis by Janina Mentz, has got information on the meeting of Kleintjes daughter and Tobela so this Service is on the move to intercept Tobela during his journey north. Tobela has to use all; his skills to avoid clashes with special forces. A peaceful and quiet man? Yes, but a man with a past. Bit by bit we get information on the background of Tobela. What was his part in the Struggle? Why is it impossible for the Services to find any information on this man? Why cannot Miriam give any information on his past? Where did Tobela hang out during the Struggle? And why does the CIA want to know about these developments, through its mole in the organization of this Secret Service?
The hunt continues for the man whom once was a hunter himself. He knows the tricks of the game, but he has become a bit rusty.
Will he succeed in reaching Lusaka and gain freedom for his old friend? Deon Meyer manages in a convincing way to keep me going, page after page. That in itself is an achievement.
Deon Meyer – Proteus – 2002 (English title : Heart of the Hunter – 2003)