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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

HEART of the HUNTER (audiobook) by Deon Meyer

Originally published in 2002
English Audiobook version published in 2013 by HighBridge Audio
Read by Simon Vance
Duration: Approximately 11.5 hours

Deon Meyer's novel Heart of the Hunter features a very large black South African man named Thobela "Tiny" Mpayipheli who used to be part of the armed resistance movement to the South Africa's Apartheid government which collapsed in 1994. He was trained by the East German secret police and was part of multiple assassinations. He had a talent for violence. When the Apartheid regime ended he suddenly found himself on the outside, an anachronism. His skills were no longer needed and it would be better for the leadership if he just went away. So, he took his skill set to a drug lord but he soon realized there was no large sense of purpose, no lofty ideals in organized crime.

At that point Mpayipheli decided to bank his money, go straight and retire completely in South Africa. He met a woman with a young son, moved in and devoted himself to this new family they created. He took a job at a motorcycle repair place and everything seemed to be just about as perfect as anyone could make it.

That is until he gets word that a trusted old friend from the old days will day unless a hard drive is delivered to Lusaka, Zambia. He decides he has to go even though his wife begs him not to. When government officials stop him from boarding a plane to Zambia his old training kicks in and he escapes and goes on the run while trying to work his way to Zambia. He borrows a high-powered BMW motorcycle and finds that he is being pursued by government officials, the police and even a special forces unit. Meanwhile, South African officials want to know what is on the hard drive and everyone is scrambling to catch him and cover everything up before the truth gets out because someone has leaked the story to the media and now everyone is wondering who the mysterious big man on the BMW is and why he is running.

Deon Meyer. Photo by Krimidoedel
Deon Meyer is a South African writer who writes in the South African language Afrikaans. I only mention it because sometimes translated works are clunky, but this book is not. But, if you are not familiar with South Africa's Apartheid history and how South Africa's role in the larger Cold War between the U.S.S.R and NATO then I would imagine this book would be quite confusing.

The audiobook was read by the incomparable Simon Vance who covered a multitude of accents, male and female characters, children and old people (the old man who writes folk songs was particularly memorable) with ease. If Simon Vance were to read my grocery list it would sound important. When he reads (performs is a more accurate term) a book it is an experience.

While this was a good book, it was not a great one. The ending was too drawn out. Too many of the different threads of the story that were meticulously laid out in the first couple of hours never did really come together (the biker clubs that are sympathetic to the mysterious rider on the BMW are a great example. They are mentioned many times because they want to express some sort of biker solidarity but when they finally appear it is only for a few seconds and they just fade away).

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5.
Reviewed on August 28, 2013

Note: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review as a part of the Audiobook Jukebox Solid Gold Reviewer program.

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