Book Reviews: Forsaken Witboy, Or Death Hunt In The Himalayas

June 2, 2024

 

By BRUCE DENNILL, MARION HOFMEYR & ROB HOFMEYR

 

Not Forsaken by Louie Giglio

Walking The Himalayas by Levison Wood

The Last Hunt by Deon Meyer

Death On The Limpopo by Sally Andrew

Witboy In Berlin by Deon Maas

 

Model fathers are, sadly, almost an unknown quantity in the modern world. That’s not to say there are not many, many men trying their best in their various family situations, but there are as many variations on coming short as there are challenges for dads to face. All of this makes understanding the nature of the fatherhood of God something of a challenge for the average person. Louis Giglio, pastor of Atlanta’s Passion City Church, unpacks the theology of the latter concept with his trademark accessibility and empathy. For the reader who has not considered the topic at hand before, the presentation in Not Forsaken will likely be immediately helpful as well as comforting, but readers with any long-term exposure to preaching on the subject may feel that Giglio’s take on the topic, with it’s regular circling back to the same sources or re-wording of the same ideas, is a touch simplistic. Even if that is the case, though, Not Forsaken provides strong reassurance that the reader need never feel alone or unloved, and for achieving that alone it deserves praise. – BD

 

Ex-soldier, explorer, broadcaster and author Levison Wood likes a long walk and doesn’t mind if that trundle is through desperately inhospitable territory. That’s a mindset that will confuse many readers – the abiding question throughout this book remains, “Why would someone put themselves through this if they didn’t need to?” – but it’s also one that inspires, with Wood having the sort of adventures that most of us will only ever have the chance to read about. As hostile areas go, it’s difficult to top the Himalayas, where extreme weather, energy-sapping terrain, political and religious tension and poverty can all make even a good day a strenuous test of stamina and focus. And on this journey, Wood is faced with his own mortality more directly than has been the case before. His cheerful stoicism, impressive physical reserves and the assistance of a few knowledgeable locals helps get him through, but there is plenty of drama, matched by the armchair travelling value of the exotic (though not always glamorous) locales Wood writes about in Walking The Himalayas.

 

For Deon Meyer fans The Last Hunt, a Benny Griesel novel, lives up to all expectations.  It’s a cliffhanger and you need to read to the last page to figure out the plot. Benny Griesel and his long-term partner, Vaughn Cupido of the Hawks, are given the case to investigate of an ex-cop whose body is found beside a railway line. He appears to have jumped off a luxurious train travelling between Cape Town and Johannesburg. Two suspicious characters seen with him have disappeared into thin air. The local police near Three Sisters have failed to make any progress on the case. Other people appear to be making the solution difficult. Meanwhile, in Bordeaux, France, Daniel Darret has moved from South Africa under a new name to settle down to a quiet life. But his skills as an international hitman are required one more time. Daniel is given no choice in the matter and his target is the corrupt president of his homeland who will be visiting France. Three strands of the same story become entwined in a ferocious race against time. The Hawks need to solve the murder. Daniel has to evade the relentless Russian agents tracking him. Lastly, Benny has to pluck up the courage to propose to his girlfriend. In doing research for the book Meyer took a trip on the Rovos Rail.  He consulted with Ronnie Kasrils about South African Embassy requirements as well as with many members of the South African as well as the French Police forces, so the book is well documented and an excellent read.- MH

 

Death On The Limpopo is a welcome addition to the Tannie Maria Mystery series, encompassing both murder and delectable recipes.Tannie Maria is the agony aunt of a platteland newspaper, based in Ladismith in the Little Karoo. She is also a great chef (‘gourmet’ would be too pretentious), someone who revels in making traditional food with flair, enthusiasm and innovation. It is a toss-up whether murder, cooking or love dominates. Actually, it is a rich blend of all three and like a good dish interesting, exciting and delicious at the same time. Maria and her colleagues at the Klein Karoo Gazette – Hattie, the editor and Jessie the journalist – are thrown into confusion with the  arrival of a formidable journalist sent by Head Office in Johannesburg. Zabanguni Kani is ostensibly there to bring about a little “transformation” to the Gazette. Zabanguni, hereafter Zaba, rides a Ducati, wears leathers and is somewhat assertive. It soon becomes apparent that she is not simply here on a mild mission. However, we must let her meet Detective Lieutenant Henk Kannemeyer, Maria’s lover. This is like introducing a bull mastiff to a Bengal cat. Both bristle. But then Zaba suffers a series of attacks, culminating in the death of a fellow journalist. Despite her own fears and Henk’s opposition, Maria decides to take Zaba on the same journey is her own bakkie. The drama that unfolds is filled with the intrigues and plots so familiar to any South African keeping up with our politics and personalities. It is a well-told adventure with plenty of drama and of personal discovery. The denouement is wonderful. This  is an easy read, delightful and also compelling, written by someone whose father was an activist and who imbues Maria with an ancestry drawn from her own life. – RH

 

Journalist, TV producer and author Deon Maas, having built a relatively high-profile career in South Africa, moved to Berlin a few years ago, when his wife was offered an attractive job in the German capital. A combination of the grass not being greener on the other side and Maas’s healthy cynicism means that his perspectives on his new home are never the saccharine observations of so many magazine travel features, but rather a spiky, intelligent, compassionate and warm treatise on the realities of adapting to – and adopting – the mores, traditions, pressures and vision of a new country, with all its opportunities and flaws. It’s a hugely refreshing evaluation, dealing honestly with the loss of moving away from what is valuable and towards what might prove to have new significance. And given Maas’ alternative tastes, there are also insights into aspects of Berlin culture, from art to politics via music and immigration, that visitors to the city (or indeed, its inhabitants) might generally overlook. Witboy In Berlin is sharp, sobering…and encouraging.

 

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