Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

buy us books !
Amazon wishlist

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada



the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Heart of the Hunter

Deon Meyer

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

To purchase Heart of the Hunter

Title: Heart of the Hunter
Author: Deon Meyer
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002 (Eng. 2003)
Length: 372 pages
Original in: Afrikaans
Availability: Heart of the Hunter - US
Heart of the Hunter - UK
Heart of the Hunter - Canada
Heart Of The Hunter - India
L'âme du chasseur - France
Das Herz des Jägers - Deutschland
Codice: cacciatore - Italia
  • Afrikaans title: Proteus
  • Translated by K.L.Seegers

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B+ : a bit much, but a solid thriller

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Washington Post . 19/7/2004 Patrick Anderson

  From the Reviews:
  • "Near the end of this well-written, well-translated novel, there are amazing passages as he speeds along the highway, sorely wounded, feverish, hallucinating (.....) Heart of the Hunter is most obviously a rip-roaring adventure, a portrait of spy-world duplicity and a look at South Africa's post-apartheid politics. But this thriller is also an ambitious attempt to create a mythic hero. Thobela works admirably as a character, but ultimately he is a symbol of all that is strong and long-suffering in Africa and Africans. Meyer is trying to show us the soul of a continent, and to a considerable degree he succeeds." - Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post

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.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       Much of Heart of the Hunter is a chase-story, but really the chase (and the reasons behind it) are only a cover for a look at South Africa's recent past and present. Several government entities -- various domestic intelligence agencies, as well as the American CIA -- have interests to protect and history to hide in the post-apartheid age, and Heart of the Hunter is full of threats of exposure. But even then the question of who anyone really is and what they stand for remains open.
       Smack at the centre of it all is Thobela 'Tiny' Mpayipheli, a very big, intimidating black man (familiar also from his role in Dead at Daybreak, which is set a few years before the events of this novel). Tiny is now working at Mother City Motorrad, a lowly position for the now unassuming man. Tiny has changed his ways, and he's in love with a woman with whom he wants to spend his life, and already a father-figure to her young son. But Tiny has a past, and his past catches up with him.
       When last we saw Tiny (in Dead at Daybreak) he was an enforcer for a drug dealer. But he has an even darker past, from the Cold War days, when he was trained and used by the Soviets and East Germans ..... A name from that past he thought he'd left behind resurfaces: the daughter of Johnny Kleintjes seeks him out. Her father is being held in Lusaka and the demand is that a hard-drive be delivered to those holding him in exchange for his life. Kleintjes told his daughter to get in touch with Tiny if anything ever happened to him, and so here she is.
       Tiny feels the call of duty and honour, and he agrees to take the hard-drive to Lusaka -- but there are quite a few who don't want to see that happen. When the easiest way of getting there -- simply flying -- is barred to him he hops on a motorcycle and starts to race north. And the chase is on.
       The media soon get wind of what's happening too, and so this all plays out in the newspapers, on the roads, and in the various offices of the authorities, many of whom have their own interests they are desperately trying to protect. The hard-drive potentially has: "information on a mole at the very highest level" -- and those on the case have to tread carefully, since they can't be sure whether or not one of their colleagues might not be that very mole ..... As is, information leaks out of these intelligence services and the police like a sieve -- though often it also seems to be misinformation, as each interested party tries to write the story of the chase to fit their own needs.
       Meyer cuts back and forth between Tiny on his motorcycle and on his way and the various interested parties, from a journalist on the case (who manages to track down and involve (and bed) good buddy Zapotek van Heerden ) to the various investigators and foot-soldiers. There's plenty of action and suspense, and if some of it is over the top the pull of the story is compelling enough that one can more or less accept it.
       Tiny, like South Africa, is torn. Should he -- or will he be driven to -- revert to his old ways ? Those that know what he used to be capable of say that his first encounters with his pursuers suggest he's a different man -- but can he stay that way or will circumstances force him to act as he once did ? Similarly the authorities try to paint a picture of him as a dangerous man and a threat -- yet many of the people who hear about the story (without knowing anything like the whole story) take his side.
       Meyer uses the story well to describe contemporary South Africa, especially its representative intelligence services and police, trying to reconcile what they once were and who they now are (or should be). Van Heerden claims that people are programmed and hardwired, that you can't change who you are, and it's a question that hovers over every facet of and every encounter in the book. Tiny tries to prove otherwise (with van Heerden cheering him on -- and lending a helping hand where necessary) , but he certainly doesn't have it easy, despite all his best intentions.
       Tiny is, of course, a stand-in for all of South Africa, in every respect, and that's a lot to burden a character with; not surprisingly, the novel veers into heroic-epic form. Meyer can't quite pull it off entirely convincingly -- Tiny is simply too super-human to be believed -- but it's still a rousing good read.
       In this thriller-adventure with more than the usual depth (though pretty much the usual lack of subtlety) Meyer has perhaps a few too many piece fall into place (the affair between van Heerden and the journalist, in particular, seems gratuitous). Still: worthwhile.

- Return to top of the page -


Heart of the Hunter: Reviews: Deon Meyer: Other books by Deon Meyer under review: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       South African author Deon Meyer was born in 1958.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2008-2021 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links