I can’t remember exactly when last I read Afrikaans fiction, but when a good friend of mine decided to pick out a book for me to read, he went with Deon Meyer’s 7 Dae (translation: 7 Days). Coming home from the library with the book in hand, my mother and her friend was thoroughly impressed, because 1) he is known as one of SA’s best Afrikaans authors and 2) they personally like his books.
7 Days is a crime fiction novel. Bennie Griessel has been promoted to the Hawks in the South African Police Service and his first project is a murder case. A young attorney, Hanneke Sloet, was murdered in her apartment, stabbed to death. Following threats received by SAPS, they are being accused of covering up the murder and the person making the threats are sending emails quoting from the Bible, shooting policemen at random and believe that the reason for the cover up is that the murderer are politically well connected. He also accuses SAPS for accepting payment from said perpetrator. Needless to say, solving this murder case is quickly escalating in urgency and this puts the new Hawk, Bennie, under immense pressure. The truth is SAPS has no idea who the murderer is and Bennie is intimidated, because the more they think they are moving in the right direction with the investigation, they run into dead ends.
Bennie is also a recovering alcoholic and dating an Afrikaans singer, Alexa Barnard, who is trying to make a comeback – he met her in one of his AA meetings. I personally found Bennie to be an interesting character or maybe my favourite character in the book. Throughout the book we learn all aspects of his life: his struggle with sobriety and how his alcohol addiction lead to his divorce from his wife, how he copes with work and as a parent as well as how he takes the first steps into improving his life by staying sober, getting into a new relationship etc. What I personally found endearing about him is how he dealt with the fact that his daughter now has a new boyfriend, that his son wants to get a tattoo and how social media can assist in murder investigations. However, I didn’t really like Alexa, she was my least favourite character and to be honest, if she was left out of the story, it wouldn’t have taken much away from the storyline.
This was a really nice read for me and I was surprised about how much I liked it, because I don’t read a lot of crime fiction PLUS this was my first Afrikaans read in a really long time. I think that the story was well written and I loved that the setting was Cape Town, because it was familiar. I also liked that the dialogue was written in English and Afrikaans, depending on who the character was. To me the ending was a surprise, because nowhere in the storyline did I actually suspect the actual murderer. If you are a fan of Afrikaans fiction and enjoy crime novels, I say give Deon Meyer’s series a try. I believe that this isn’t the first book in the series, but you can read it independently.
This book was translated into English as “7 Days”, so if you don’t read Afrikaans, you can still pick up the English title!