Introduction: I’m a reader who loves discovering new writers and discussing how great these writers are with the rest of the reading community. We all know that not every good writer out there gets the attention that they deserve. Such is life. It’s up to us as readers to spread the word about these great writers. I asked three readers to profile an author they enjoyed reading in the mystery genre who they think is “underrated” or “unappreciated.” Trisha from the YA YA YAs, a blog that primarily focuses on YA literature (worth checking out) is also a big mystery reader. She introduced me to Jo Nesbo’s work several years ago. Her guest post on writer Deon Meyer is below. If you have a favorite mystery writer that you’d like to profile, please contact me using the contact form. Thanks!
Author: Deon Meyer
Books (listed below in their original publication order, with U.S. publication dates in parentheses):
Reading order: I don’t think the books constitute an actual, official series, but several characters appear or will appear in multiple books. So depending on your reading preferences, you may wish to read the books in the order they were originally published. Or you can start with Blood Safari or Thirteen Hours, which I think are the best of Meyer’s books so far.
Translators: Madeleine van Biljon (Dead Before Dying, Dead at Daybreak), K. L. Seegers (Heart of the Hunter, Devil’s Peak, Blood Safari, Thirteen Hours)
Do you like reading about flawed, sympathetic characters in fast-paced stories with relentless action, almost unbearable suspense, and a vivid sense of place?
Then read Deon Meyer.
Are you getting a bit tired of all the Scandinavian mysteries hitting the shelves, but still want to read books that address social problems, class, race, ethnic conflict, history, and inequity?
Then read Deon Meyer.
Or maybe you’re simply looking for a compulsive page-turner with top-notch writing.
Read Deon Meyer, a bestselling and award-winning South African writer whose books haven’t achieved the widespread acclaim in the U.S. that they deserve. Heart of the Hunter was the first of his books published in the U.S., but I don’t think Meyer hit his stride until 2009′s Blood Safari. Okay, so the first couple of chapters at the start of Part 2, when Lemmer talks about his past, dragged, but it’s still a knockout of a book. Blood Safari is told in the first-person by Lemmer, a bodyguard hired by a wealthy Afrikaaner woman who sees a photograph of a murder suspect on the news and believes the suspect is her brother. Only, her brother died twenty years ago, so why, several days after the news report, did masked men break into her house and try to shoot her?
After Blood Safari came Thirteen Hours, which uses an omniscient narration and rapidly switching POVs following a rather large cast of characters. When a dead body is found outside a church, the police are called to the scene. They soon suspect the murder victim is an American tourist, and as the detectives try to identify her, they realize that the dead girl wasn’t alone. Another girl is on the run, trying to escape the men who killed her friend.
Like other South African mysteries and thrillers, Meyer’s books are gritty and taut, though not as bleak as some of the others. Perhaps partly because of this, I think Meyer’s books are easier to get into, more accessible and immediately engaging. What makes Meyer’s books further stand out are his skill at characterization, pacing, and plotting. It’s not just that these are fast-paced, excellently plotted books. It’s the multiracial, multiethnic cast of characters that populate the books, struggling against their own pasts and their country’s history, and how Meyer seems to effortlessly combine these facets into novels that are unputdownable because not only do you want to discover the truth, but you so quickly have come to care about the characters. And the tension! There is so much tension in these books. I genuinely worry about whether some of the characters will survive or not. I try not to get too attached because of this, but it doesn’t matter. I get attached and I desperately want them to survive and I worry that they won’t.
Meyer has a new book coming out soon, Trackers, which features a couple of characters from his previous books, including Lemmer from Blood Safari. So while you wait for what Publishers Weekly thinks “could be his breakout book in the U.S.” to be published on September 6, why not hit Meyer’s backlist first?