Human & Rousseau
Review: Simonéh de Bruin
This nail-biting crime thriller is the first in the genre for celebrated author and actress Lerina Erasmus, who penned Die Mannheimsage Trilogy, a period drama set in the days of the Witwatersrand gold rush in 1886, which was adapted for television.
Die Leliemoordenaar is set in modern-day Johannesburg but the story starts off in 1985 – a time that sounded the death rattle for the diabolical apartheid regime.
Two friends, investigative journalist Braam Brink and SA Defence Force recce Adam Williams, meet for breakfast.
Adam reveals his role as assassin for a special unit in the SADF under the NP-led government, to eliminate political activists “ter wille van volk en vaderland”.
He tells Braam about the unit’s involvement in the murders of various high-profile political activists, deemed problematic and whose deaths had to be orchestrated once “the signal” had been given.
Shortly thereafter, Braam’s body is found in his house with a gun in his hand. The authorities conclude that it was suicide.
Thirty years later, detective Daniella “Danny” Hector, Braam’s daughter, who is regarded as a top sleuth, is asked to investigate a series of murders in Johannesburg. However, Lieutenant Billy Venter, who up until Danny’s arrival was leading the investigation into the serial killer, sees her as a threat, and the two butt heads, but grudgingly she earns his respect as the investigation gathers momentum.
All leads point to a serial killer, who leaves a particularly macabre calling card when he strikes every three weeks. While it would be easy to write the killer off as a heartless monster, the reader, through Erasmus’s skillful portrayal of her characters, gets to know him as a person and what has driven him to carry out the grotesque murders and why each victim has been singled out for retribution.
A single parent, Danny also has to deal with her sly and philandering ex-husband who is trying to get custody of their daughter to get back at her where he knows it will hurt the most. And hovering in the background is who – and what – is behind Braam’s mysterious death. Could there be a connection to events three decades earlier and what is currently happening?
The book ends on a cliffhanger – just when you think all the threads have been neatly brought together, from what really happened to Braam to the reference to a lily in the title of the book – Harm Hasslau, the mastermind behind the special SADF assassin unit, escapes, opening the way for a sequel, which will no doubt have the sharp Danny on the trail.
Erasmus has crafted a pacey thriller, filled with tension and intrigue. The story-line, characters and dialogue all contribute to a grabber that keeps you riveted from page one.