Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book review: Wake Up Dead by Roger Smith

Wake Up Dead: A Thriller Wake Up Dead: A Thriller by Roger Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
After reading about the renaissance in South African crime fiction in Library Journal and Booklist, I decided to take a look at this book. Blurbed by one of my favorite authors, Ken Bruen, as "unrelenting noir" it seemed like a good place to start. Beginning with a carjacking and a murder and building to a horror-show of atrocities, this story certainly isn't for the weak of stomach. Billy Afrika, a mixed race former mercenary and cop is the pivotal character around which a wild cast of characters turns: Piper, the homicidal maniac who wants nothing more than to be reunited with his jailhouse "wife" Disco, while Ernie Maggot (great name!) the feeble minded but honest cop tries to see how all of the murder and mayhem is linked together with the burgeoning drug trade. Add to that Roxy, the American former model with a score to settle and The Cannibal with his Ukrainian whore (seriously!) and you've got a real rogue's gallery. Bruen's blurb really sums it up, this is pitch black crime noir with a body count to rival a James Ellroy novel and some really cringe inducing scenes. If you can stand the violence and sadism though, Smith tells a crackling take of post apartheid South Africa, where racial tensions still run roughshod and crime and brutal punishment are never far away. Imagine A Clockwork Orange mixed with The Wire and Oz, set in South Africa and you have some idea of what to expect.

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