The Last Hunt

THE LAST HUNT by Deon Meyer (Grove Atlantic, $27.00, April, 2020). Rating: A When an ex-policeman named Johnson Johnson is murdered, the locals botch the investigation so it is handed up the line until it lands in Captain Benny Griessel’s hands. He and his partner, Vaughn Cupido, are members of the elite Hawks police unit that are known for their brilliance and incorruptibility.
Underlying this entire narrative is the current state of affairs in South Africa. It is a sad atmosphere of endemic corruption at the highest levels of government and industry, referred to by the locals as “state capture.” To make matters worse, several of the big players are heroes from the anti-apartheid movement that brought in new optimism for the future of South Africa. For those still loyal to the cause and its ideals this is a very bitter pill.
The murder is a curious affair. As it turns out, the victim was stabbed in the neck and then thrown from a luxury train. His mangled body was later found by the side of the tracks. A close look at the train’s passenger list brings to light two passengers who were traveling under false names. Attempts to identify and find these men fail to uncover any helpful information . Then the case is pulled from the Hawks, leaving Benny and Vaughn very frustrated, suspecting a cover-up by highly placed officials.
On a parallel track, the reader is introduced to Daniel Darret, who is leading a quiet life in Bordeaux, France as an assistant to a master furniture restorer. He is visited by an old friend from his days in South Africa as a freedom fighter, who wants Daniel (who is really “Tiny” Thobella Mpayipheli, the main character in the author’s HEART OF THE HUNTER) to use his sniper skills to kill the corrupt South African president while on a visit to France. Very reluctantly Daniel leaves his peaceful existence to eliminate someone who has betrayed the ideals of Nelson Mandella and his revolution.
The two storylines eventually crash together in an ending as dramatic as it is unexpected, leaving Griessel and Cupido uncertain of their own future.
I absolutely love this series which started out very good and just seems to get better and better with each successive novel. This is a meaty book with so much to admire in it. If I have anything to do with it, this will be a Barry Award nomination next year.
Jeff Popple’s Take: I agree with George on this one. THE LAST HUNT was one of the best thrillers I read in 2019. The pacing and the tension was very good and the background information on the current situation in South Africa was fascinating and well handled. I thought the final pages were among the most suspenseful I have read. Rating: A