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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

Icarus

by
Deon Meyer


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Icarus



Title: Icarus
Author: Deon Meyer
Genre: Novel
Written: 2015
Length: 360 pages
Original in: Afrikaans
Availability: Icarus - US
Icarus - UK
Icarus - Canada
Icarus - India
Icarus - Deutschland
  • Afrikaans title: Ikarus
  • Translated by K.L.Seegers

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Our Assessment:

B+ : well built up and satisfying police procedural

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent . 6/8/2015 Barry Forshaw
Publishers Weekly . 17/8/2015 .


  From the Reviews:
  • "(A)s glittering and hard as the diamonds his country is famous for. (...) Meyer utilises the crime fiction genre as an apparatus to create a multifaceted, unsparing picture of his country." - Barry Forshaw, The Independent

  • "The richness of the characters, especially the multifaceted Benny, elevates this above most contemporary police procedurals." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Icarus features one of Deon Meyer's regulars, Captain Benny Griesel of the Hawks (as the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations is widely known as). Aged forty-six, he's actually in a happy relationship with Alexa Barnard -- but almost immediately his tenuous hold on a life of normality is dealt a devastating blow when he is sent to a crime scene where a fellow police officer has just committed a horrific crime. Suddenly, overwhelmed recovering alcoholic Benny is recovering no more: he has seen what might lie in store for him and he decides on a different escape, resorting to the relief and support provided by alcohol once again. That this probably isn't good for his relationship (Alexa is also a recovering alcoholic) or career occurs to him, but he thinks he can -- and must -- handle it.
       Benny's struggle with his demons and his alcoholism feels a bit staged -- for one, in allowing Meyer to avoid dealing with Alexa, whom he manages to shove entirely off stage for most of the book. And, of course, the arc of Benny coming to understand that he needs to reach out and ask for help is a bit too obvious and predictable. Still, for a while it adds yet more tension -- will his drinking interfere with his duties and abilities (as the outcome of his first bender immediately suggests) ? -- and also thrusts colleague Vaughn Cupido into a more central role -- Cupido catches the case that novel actually centers on, with the (occasionally incapacitated) Benny relegated to a somewhat secondary role, at least as far as the investigation goes. (One of the many things that Meyer does well is work with an ensemble: the investigation is very much a team effort, not just, for example, the Benny-show, making for a much more realistic variation on the police procedural than most.)
       The investigation at the heart of the novel begins when a body is found, that of young entrepreneur Ernst Richter who has been missing for several weeks. Richter ran a company called Alibi, an apparently successful internet-start-up membership service that provided 'alibis' for clients when, for example, they wanted to cheat on their spouses -- from fake restaurant and hotel bills to more elaborate ones. With some clients having apparently been blackmailed -- and a hacker now threatening to reveal the full member list -- any number of people had good reason to be very displeased with Richter.
       The novel doesn't merely track this investigation, however. In alternating chapters -- for most of the novel -- Meyer has a Francois du Toit bare his heart and soul to Advocate Susan Peires. He showed up at her office on the day before Christmas -- a week after the discovery of Richter's body, so the timelines of the narratives are not concurrent, the Richter-story taking a while to catch up -- and has something he wants to get off his chest. He thinks he needs a lawyer -- and: "It's ... it's connected to the murder of Ernst Richter."
       Du Toit has a lot to say, and it's a long time before he gets to any possible Richter-connection, but it's a fairly good story too, with some surprising turns. It's obvious the two strands of the novel have to converge at some point, and though it takes a long time getting there, Meyer keeps things interesting in his suggestions of where and why they might eventually intersect, repeatedly upending expectations.
       The police procedural part is well done too. Cupido's romantic interest in one of those involved with the case might be a bit much, but overall all of this is nicely done, with plausible discoveries and setbacks along the way. As befits a novel about an internet startup, technology comes into play, and Meyer handles that decently -- and fortunately doesn't try to do too much with it. Particularly pleasing is the slow discovery of who Richter really was as the police put together the pieces and follow the leads, as well as the clearer picture that emerges of Alibi, whose success isn't all it claims to be either (in a nice parallel with some of du Toit's revelations about a very different industry): appearances and reality, both corporate and personal, turn out to often be surprisingly different.
       Meyer capably handles and weaves together the many strands of his story, effortlessly juggling the many characters. The least convincing parts of the novel are the romantic relationships -- supportive but near-invisible Alexa, as well as Cupido's efforts -- but most of the rest of the story unfolds very nicely and quite convincingly. And it's good to see Meyer confident enough in his story that he doesn't feel the need to resort to an over-the-top, all-guns-blazing explosive showdown climax (as he has in too many of his previous books).
       Icarus is yet again a very satisfying Meyer novel.

- M.A.Orthofer, 17 October 2015

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Links:

Icarus: Reviews: Deon Meyer: Other books by Deon Meyer under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       South African author Deon Meyer was born in 1958.

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© 2015 the complete review

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