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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

Weeping Waters

by
Karin Brynard


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Weeping Waters



Title: Weeping Waters
Author: Karin Brynard
Genre: Novel
Written: 2009 (Eng. 2014)
Length: 504 pages
Original in: Afrikaans
Availability: Weeping Waters - US
Weeping Waters - UK
Weeping Waters - Canada
Weeping Waters - India
Les milices du Kalahari - France
Weinende Wasser - Deutschland
Terra di sangue - Italia
  • The first in the Inspector Beeslaar series
  • Afrikaans title: Plaasmoord
  • Translated by Maya Fowler and Isobel Dixon

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Our Assessment:

B : odd mix of bloated and diffuse, but ultimately reasonably effective

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Business Day . 17/4/2015 Eugene Goddard
Publishers Weekly . 5/2/2018 .


  From the Reviews:
  • "Weeping Waters is a great, gripping read and sometimes you donít know when to laugh or cry. Unfortunately its primary qualities, from its roguish characters to its sharp stabs at crimes belying SAís land discourse is compromised by the threadbare unfurling of the final chapters. Itís as if novelistic inquiry brought Brynard to a journalistic realisation, forcing her hand in explaining a few things, telling and not showing the story anymore." - Eugene Goddard, Business Day

  • "Though the momentum suffers mightily in places, crime fiction fans will find the picturesque backdrop, cast of authentic characters, and knotty story line to be more than satisfying." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Weeping Waters introduces Inspector Albertus Beeslaar, pushed out of his post in Johannesburg and now finding himself in a tiny, underfunded station in a small farming town, with only two neophyte sergeants, Ghaap and Pyl, his support team. And:

He'd barely arrived, blissfully under the impression he was heading for a quiet job in a peaceful backwater, when the shit hit the fan and started flying in all directions.
       There's been a recent: "unprecedented wave of stock theft" -- devastating for the farmers who rely on their livestock -- and then two farm workers were murdered, perhaps catching the thieves in the act. And the story opens with an even more horrific crime: a woman, Freddie, and young girl -- the foster child she was hoping to adopt -- have been brutally murdered at the family farm, Huilwater -- the 'weeping water' of the title.
       Beeslaar comes with some baggage, disgraced in Johannesburg for reasons that are only hinted at at first and then, finally, revealed almost exactly midway through the long novel. With hints that racism and violence played a role -- and Beeslaar does seem to have a bit of a temper -- it casts a bit of a shadow over him for a while -- though of course it turns out that he was (more or less -- he did beat the crap out of someone) the good guy. But Beeslaar also shows some human weakness: he's alone, for one, and obviously a bit lonely, reaching out to what he's left behind on occasion. And he does get debilitating panic attacks, which can be rather inconvenient.
       The murdered woman was: "an eccentric artist from Johannesburg", who had come back here when her father was dying and had, for the time being, taken over the farm. Among her paintings is one which shows her unsettlingly like how she was murdered, with her hair shorn ...: "It looks as if she knew exactly how she was going to die". After her death, her estranged sister, Sara, comes to town to deal with the aftermath.
       The locals -- or at least the white local landowners -- are growing more militant, worried about their safety and their land, and this tension doesn't help matters. Freddie's Bushman farm manager, Dam De Kok, is someone they find suspect, and the fact that Freddie had been looking into the land rights of the dispossessed Griqua tribe, in a South Africa wrestling with land ownership issues in the ongoing post-apartheid transition, was certainly unsettling to many. Significantly, it also appears that Huilwater is a particularly valuable property: "Water, That's what Huilwater's got. Jissus, lots of it !" -- a rarity in this arid region.
       Beeslaar has to report to the nearest city, Upington, and Superintendent Mogale, and between the great distance between the locales, as well as the usual power-struggles -- with a dash of racial issues -- there's additional tension to complicate the investigation. For a (very short) while Beeslaar is even pulled off the case -- but his professionalism does see him quickly reïnstalled, leading the case, and the subordinates he's maybe won over. But even he always seems to be running a few steps behind events, which include more murder and assaults, as well as a mass protest that gets out of hand.
       Weeping Waters skips along quite quickly -- 102 chapters, following the police investigation as well as some of the other activity, notably around Sara (and then a journalist-friend who comes up to help her, Harry). There's lots of driving around -- the distances are enormous -- and the police are chronically undermanned, even as far support goes, from the coroner to any lab work they need done. Telephone reception is often poor, too, there are too few official vehicles, and too many groups acting in self-interest -- or taking advantage of the situations.
       Brynard crowds the field -- Beeslaar eventually even takes in, more or less, a boy off the streets -- and there is a lot going on. The fundamental issues, especially about land rights, are fairly well-presented, and there's a good local and historical touch with the specific racial complications of the Griqua claims to some of the land. White rage is also fairly convincingly shown, including how it gets out of hand.
       Missing, however, is a better sense of the crimes themselves. With Freddie and the child killed off as the book opens, it's perhaps difficult to make more of them -- and at least Freddie's background, taking care of her ill father, as an artist, and her growing interest in seeing to (land-)justice gives some sense of who she was. But one doesn't get much of a sense of either victim -- the role Freddie played in all this, rather than who she was, predominates, while the girl doesn't rise beyond the level of prop --, which makes for an unsatisfactory feeling. So too with some of the other crimes: they fit well enough into the explanation(s), but there's rather little sense of who these victims were and are, giving an oddly lifeless feel to much of the novel -- even as the scenes involving the living often get visceral. More than most crime novel, Weeping Waters barely seems to be about the victims; it's pretty much all about the living.
       The story does go on for quite a while -- it's a long novel -- but does build to a quite exciting crescendo, and then action-packed resolution. It's a bit messy, but a welcome and surprising change of pace. The story as a whole also remains a bit too unwieldy, with much information too carefully dosed out (notably Beeslaar's background -- though at least we learn something about him, which can't be said of almost any of the other characters save De Kok).
       A bit of a slow-burn novel, Weeping Waters is a solid enough police procedural that quite vividly addresses local and historical issues.

- M.A.Orthofer, 25 March 2018

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Links:

Weeping Waters: Reviews: Karin Brynard: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       South African author Karin Brynard was born in 1957.

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© 2018 the complete review

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