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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Devil's Peak

Deon Meyer

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

To purchase Devil's Peak

Title: Devil's Peak
Author: Deon Meyer
Genre: Novel
Written: 2004 (Eng. 2007)
Length: 406 pages
Original in: Afrikaans
Availability: Devil's Peak - US
Devil's Peak - UK
Devil's Peak - Canada
Devil's Peak - India
Le pic du diable - France
Der Atem des Jägers - Deutschland
Afrikaan Blues - Italia
El pico del diablo - España
  • Afrikaans title: Infanta
  • Translated by K.L.Seegers

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Our Assessment:

B+ : ultimately tries to pack too much in, but still good reading, and very solid

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian A 21/7/2007 Matthew Lewin
The LA Times . 13/4/2008 Sarah Weinman
Sunday Times . 1/7/2007 John Dugdale
The Times A 23/6/2007 Peter Millar
TLS . 22/6/2007 Natasha Cooper

  Review Consensus:


  From the Reviews:
  • "I marvelled at the intricacy of the plotting, I smiled at Christine's cheeky ingenuity, I felt Thobela's pain and Benny's desperation, and I was stunned by a dénouement of awesome power and accomplishment." - Matthew Lewin, The Guardian

  • "Devil's Peak sets its rhythm at molto allegro and ends with vivace flourish, but the novel's heft comes from the author's great sense of empathy for his characters and for their often catastrophic flaws." - Sarah Weinman, The Los Angeles Times

  • "Originally written in Afrikaans, this moving, expertly constructed story of a broken manís redemption is bound to win awards." - John Dugdale, Sunday Times

  • "Meyer paints a wonderful picture of the dark side of the rainbow nation with corrupt cops on the take, drug cartels on the make and ingrained racism among the police (....) Against the odds Meyer leaves us with a resolution that is both poignant and supremely satisfying." - Peter Millar , The Times

  • "Deon Meyer skilfully builds the tension, matching Benny Griessel's struggles to give up drink with the increasingly violent action he becomes involved in. He is fortunate in his English translator, K. L. Seegers, who is an inconspicuous presence in this thoughtful and exciting novel." - Natasha Cooper, Times Literary Supplement

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:

       Deon Meyer repeatedly mixes and matches characters in his various novels: in Devil's Peak two of the three storylines (which all eventually of course get hopelessly intertwined) centre around policeman Benny Griessel and Thobela 'Tiny' Mpayipheli, familiar from earlier books.
       It's two years since we last saw one-time KGB hitman Mpayipheli (in Heart of the Hunter), and he's finally found some peace, happily playing father to the young boy Pakamile, whom he has adopted. At least that's how it looks when the books starts -- but Meyer has no qualms about horrifically shattering the peace: within a few pages Tiny is no longer playing dad and has instead become a man on a single-minded mission of vengeance ("Perhaps he had, at last, found his true vocation", he thinks). Benny, meanwhile, is hardly doing better: his alcoholism has gotten out of hand and his story begins with his wife kicking him out and giving him six months to sober up.
       A third storyline introduces a young prostitute with a young daughter. One of her customers takes a real shine to her, but he also happens to be a Colombian drug dealer; their relationship also becomes part of the larger plot, drawing both Tiny and Griessel into it.
       The crimes at the centre of the book are the murders of child-abusers who haven't been brought to justice. The killer uses an assegai -- a sort of spear --, leading the press to dub the criminal 'Artemis' (and the widespread rumour that it's a woman). In part the novel is about justice, and how to deal with it in an imperfect world, where the courts don't always achieve the obvious ends (like putting away the bad guys). For all his faults, Griessel is always clear on that point: murder is murder, and the only way to deal with crime is through the system -- but then this is a Meyer novel, where there are few absolutes. For Tiny, always the outsider, it isn't that simple. And Meyer doesn't make it easy for him either, especially when it turns out that some of those victims may not have been quite as guilty as originally thought.
       Switching back and forth between the three storylines, Meyer keeps the story going at a good pace, and as the stories overlap more and more the excitement and tension does build. But Meyer is also good with the personal material, building up each of the three main characters, and even if Griessel's struggles with alcohol are a story we've heard far too many times before, the way Meyer ties it in to Griessel's dealings with (and feelings for) his wife and children makes it a cut above the usual recovery-tale. Larger-than-life Tiny is always a compelling figure, and Meyer continues to handle him well, but the pleasant surprise is the time he takes with prostitute Christine van Rooyen, carefully building up her story (and then very nicely using that to add to the twists that come at the end, as not everything turns out to be as it seemed).
       The biggest disappointment about the book is that Meyer doesn't seem to trust his own abilities, and insists on heaping more onto the story than it can ultimately bear. Things get really out of hand, and some of the plot-twists seem implausible (not the least of which is how Griessel and Tiny get together). It's too bad, because Meyer is clearly both writer and craftsman enough that he doesn't need to try to convince readers by overwhelming them with the bloody, messy denouement that he offers.
       Still, this is a solid, entertaining thriller, and Meyer again demonstrates that he's a writer to look out for. All he needs is a bit more restraint -- and not to try so hard to nail as many 'big issues' as he can in a single book.

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Devil's Peak: Reviews: Deon Meyer: Other books by Deon Meyer under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       South African author Deon Meyer was born in 1958.

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© 2008-2021 the complete review

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