Crime and (not so much) Punishment
A couple of pages in to Mike Nicol’s superb new novel, Hammerman, the reader is taken to the middle of a horrendous shootout in Manenberg. Hours before I started reading, news had broken in the real world of yet another mass killing in Cape Town. Crime fiction as escapism? Not so much.
Hammerman is classified as crime fiction. It is also current affairs. It is travel writing. It is urban studies. It is Cape Town. It is South Africa. It is grim.
Nicol’s clipped style (Cape Town noir perhaps) propels the action forward at a rollicking pace – he is a master of plot and character and that kept me turning those pages way past my bedtime. I desperately wanted Vicki Kahn and Fish Pescado to survive and to provide me with a resolution that I could believe in, even if it was only till the next morning’s news broke. No spoilers here, you’ll have to read it to find out if Vicki and Fish make it through unscathed.
Please note this is a work of fiction. In the real world, The Book Lounge does not keep secret documents for State Security Agents, though we do appreciate the fictional shout out, as always!
Unforgiven: Face to Face with my Father’s Killer by Liz McGregor is another kind of crime writing. The author’s father, Robin, was murdered in his home in Tulbagh in 2008 and this thoughtful, candid memoir charts McGregor’s process in trying to come to terms with her loss, a process that slowly evolves into a burning desire to meet the man convicted of her father’s murder. At the heart of this story is an exploration of the possibilities of restorative justice and the space it occupies (or could occupy) in the criminal justice system. McGregor is a highly skilled writer and her honesty, her willingness to share her vulnerability on the page and her consciousness of her class and racial privilege ensures that this book works on a variety of levels. A heartfelt memoir, an exploration of the psychology of grief and a vital spotlight on the possibilities (and problems) of restorative justice.
Two very different books, both highly recommended.