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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Deon Meyer

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To purchase Cobra

Title: Cobra
Author: Deon Meyer
Genre: Novel
Written: 2013 (Eng. 2014)
Length: 338 pages
Original in: Afrikaans
Availability: Cobra - US
Cobra - UK
Cobra - Canada
Cobra - India
Kobra - France
Cobra - Deutschland
Cobra - Italia
  • Afrikaans title: Kobra
  • Translated by K.L. Seegers

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Our Assessment:

B : solid thriller that feels a bit too by-the-numbers -- but Meyer does run those numbers well

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 11/8/2014 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "The novelís only flaw is the abrupt ending, which leaves at least one characterís fate unresolved." - 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:

       Cobra is one of Deon Meyer's thrillers featuring recovering alcoholic Captain Benny Griessel, now recently shacked up -- just three weeks earlier -- with the out-of-his league singing star (and also recovering alcoholic) Alexa. Benny is feeling performance anxiety on all levels in that relationship and is a bit worse for the wear because of it -- and there's no one he can talk to it about it, so that weighs on him during these investigations. Fortunately, he has enough else on his plate soon enough so that the temptations -- just one drink ... -- can largely be kept in check.
       Griessel is appointed to head Joint Operations Command of the investigation into the messy crime that opens the book -- more pressure, but something he's been working towards: "JOC leader was an opportunity to be relevant again". The crime is an apparent murder-kidnapping: a foreign national is missing, the protection detail he had hired killed -- from the looks of it, by real pros. Among the distinguishing elements to the crime: shell casings with a signature spitting cobra on them.
       Because a British national is one of the victims, the British authorities become involved too, and by the time Griessel talks to them it's clear that there's a lot more to this case. The victim was traveling under a fake name and passport, but he's quickly identified as a leading scientist, responsible for a very important bit of computer code that helps in the tracking of international illegal financial transactions. Here and throughout, Griessel understands he isn't getting all the relevant information -- and, indeed, there's considerable opaqueness about all the interested parties involved. Benny and his team even have to stay a step ahead of the local higher authorities, as they are repeatedly ordered to step back from their investigations; fortunately, new related crimes keep happening, so Griessel and his team are able to stay on the case.
       The narrative moves back and forth between Griessel and his team's investigation and another character who finds himself involved in this situation, pickpocket Tyrone Kleinbooi, who snatches the wrong purse. The ones who killed the scientist's bodyguards and kidnapped him very much want to get their hands on what's in that purse, and they're willing to do anything to get it (as is clear from the bloodbaths they leave in their wake). But Kleinbooi is quick on his feet and has his own ideas about how all this should play out .....
       Technology -- especially cell-phone technology -- plays a significant role in several parts of the story, especially the investigation and the attempts to track the various parties. Complicating matters for Griessel and his team is that there are some higher powers who, in turn, are keeping a close eye on the police-doings -- and have no compunctions about interfering or trying to stop various investigations.
       Ruthless criminals, a police-team that has to go increasingly rogue just to stay on the case, and a nimble pickpocket (an orphan, too, looking out for his sister, who is studying to make good and become a doctor ...) makes for a nicely fast-paced mix. One of the things Meyer does well in his thrillers is not make it too easy: things go wrong in real life, and so too here very little plays out exactly as planned or hoped for. The conspiracies here are perhaps a bit too broad and murky -- Meyer doesn't even bother worrying about tying up all the loose ends -- but as long as things are moving fast (i.e. pretty much throughout the book) it hardly matters.
       The personal touches, especially about Griessel, feel a bit forced -- Meyer is much better when there's action; contemplation is definitely not his (characters') strong suit. Cobra does feel a bit like it's written by-the-numbers -- but Meyer has a great feel and touch for those numbers, and it's a gripping read, making for a solid pass-time thriller.

- M.A.Orthofer, 16 October 2014

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Cobra: 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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