Some have pegged Karin Brynard as the “South African Stieg Larsson.” For good and not so good reasons, I can see why.
I’m not an expert on South Africa. I know the broad strokes of the fall of apartheid and how it functioned before the rise of President Mandela, but as far as how the country is adapting today, I’m mostly clueless. I have no doubt that a herrenvolk government doesn’t just switch to multicultural democracy overnight, and that South Africans are probably several generations away from putting real distance behind the lingering affects of apartheid.
Karin Brynard makes the point in this story here. Ostensibly a murder mystery set in rural farmlands of South Africa, she uses this to examine the state of racism that prevails in the country, specifically around the white supremacist Great Replacement conspiracy, which was popularized by Hitler among others and which Donald Trump (of course) echoed as President.
But with Trump, he was talking not about the United Staes but about South African farmers, which he claims were being murdered by Black people for the purpose of land grabs. This has been disproven time and time again but it doesn’t stop those who yearn for the apartheid days to bring it up. Baynard brings this to life in mystery/drama form and I learned a lot about it through the characters and the environment.
That’s the good side of her Larsson-esqueness. The bad side is the underdevelopment of marginalized characters at the expense of a White Knight. Albertus Beeslaar is a complex character but he’s also usually depicted as in the right while his Black co-workers and boss are portrayed as bumbling, ineffectual bureaucrats who, despite being the victims of racism in South African, apparently can learn a thing or two from this white cop. And other Black characters are not really drawn out well either. It’s not a good look for a book that purports to address why a country with a strong legacy of anti-Blackness still struggles with it.
But it is good enough for what it’s trying to do and while I wouldn’t run out to get the second book, I wouldn’t say no either.