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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Deon Meyer

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To purchase Trackers

Title: Trackers
Author: Deon Meyer
Genre: Novel
Written: 2010 (Eng. 2011)
Length: 475 pages
Original in: Afrikaans
Availability: Trackers - US
Trackers - UK
Trackers - Canada
Trackers - India
À la trace - France
Rote Spur - Deutschland
  • Afrikaans title: Spoor
  • Translated by K.L.Seegers

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Our Assessment:

A- : very solid thriller, genuinely exciting and well written

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent . 24/10/2011 Barry Forshaw
Publishers Weekly . 18/7/2011 .
Sunday Times A 28/8/2011 Joan Smith
TLS . 16/12/2011 Chloe Campbell

  From the Reviews:
  • "(H)ow fulfilling the rewards are for those seeking crime fiction with real texture and intelligence. (...) Trackers is a sprawling, invigorating and socially committed crime novel." - Barry Forshaw, The Independent

  • "Meyer's ambition matches his execution in this brilliantly complex stand-alone thriller (.....) This powerhouse read, which captures the many facets of modern South Africa, should be the American breakthrough book this talented author deserves." - Publishers Weekly

  • "This is the authorís most accomplished novel to date. Following the thrilling plot of his best≠selling Thirteen Hours was always going to be a challenge but heís visibly gained confidence, showing his technical skill and handling the different sections of the new book with effortless ease. Itís a mesmerising read, and a startling revelation at the very end suggests that we havenít heard the last of these engaging characters." - Joan Smith, Sunday Times

  • "(A)n ambitious, multithreaded tale. (...) There are moments where the writing is a little cumbersome (...), but Trackers makes for an exciting read and the three narrative strands do ultimately tie together. It also has a wider, more ambitious remit" - Chloe Campbell, Times Literary Supplement

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:

       It's not unusual to have several separate-seeming threads unfold in a thriller, eventually more or less neatly coming together at the end, often presented in quickly alternating chapters. In Trackers Deon Meyer takes a slightly different tack, dividing the novel into four distinct 'books'. These center on specific protagonists -- books one and three on a woman named Milla, book two on Lemmer (familiar from Blood Safari), and book four on Mat Joubert (familiar from Dead before Dying), and there is only very limited direct overlap between them; they do, however, add up to a larger whole; in essence, he is telling three separate stories.
       These three main characters are each at a crossroad in their lives. The novel begins with Milla leaving her husband and son, looking to become independent. Lemmer has found a good woman and is trying to settle down, but book two (the only one narrated in the first person) begins: "I don't go looking for trouble, it comes looking for me" (and it would certainly appear that way). And Joubert has just quit the police and is starting a new job as an investigator at a detective agency, and seems a bit unsure whether he will (or wants to) fit in there.
       Milla is a would-be writer; she also keeps a diary, and one of her entries applies to all three protagonists, each trying to figure out what exactly they are meant to do and be:

     Leaving tracks, creating some impression on the surface of this earth, is a way of saying 'I was here'. Something to give meaning to this fleeting existence.
     How do you leave a track, a trail, a spoor ?
     And what sort of spoor do I want to leave ? What sort of traces can I leave ? Why would I want to leave my mark ?
       The book is all about tracks and tracking, the characters both worrying about the tracks they have and are leaving (with good reason in some cases) as well as following the trail of others, for a variety of reasons.
       Milla gets a job working for the Presidential Intelligence Agency. Her cover is that she is working for the government publication News This Week, but in fact she is a researcher for the intelligence agency. This particular intelligence agency is worried about a possible consolidation with others in the latest government shake-up. They want to preserve their independence -- and one way to do this would be to show how invaluable they are. When information suggests something big is about to go down they are all over it, desperately trying to piece together what it might involve.
       Milla eventually gets pulled much further into this when she strikes up a friendship with a man who also figures in the investigation -- though it's not entirely clear to the various actors how. Except for the odd coincidence of this man striking up this friendship at precisely this time, these sections make up a very entertaining spy-thriller.
       Lemmer, meanwhile, gets involved in something entirely different (or so it certainly long seems ...), asked to help with the not-quite-legal transport of some rare rhinoceroses from Zimbabwe. He goes along with it, but finds he's gotten himself into something rather more complicated than a simple save-the-animals action. A tracker who comes along to take care of the rhinoceroses is a particularly impressive character (as he eventually learns) and also has a few tricks up her sleeve (and elsewhere); Lemmer eventually has to try to track her, but she's very good at (most of) what she does. But Lemmer's tracking does overlap a bit with what Milla is involved with -- not that those tracks are always read correctly by the others on the hunt. (Indeed, throughout there are a lot of false scents that are relied on: not everyone knows how to do this tracking (or spying) equally well, and not all tracks or clues are what they might first seem to be -- a nice touch that Meyer handles particularly well in this book that is also about misreading signs.)
       Joubert's first case as a PI has to do with a man who simply disappeared, his car and his gym bag still in front of the gym where he worked out but otherwise no trace of him to be found (at first ...). This part is a straightforward procedural, Joubert professionally investigating this baffling case; naturally there is also a bit of overlap with the other tales as well.
       So Trackers is three novels in one -- and three different kinds of thriller in one, too. Surprisingly, this works: Meyer tells three good separate stories here, and one good larger one. The tension mounts in each -- and, of course, there's the suspense of what fits together, and how. While in previous novels Meyer has relied too much on the over-the-top action-ending, he shows much more confidence in his own abilities here, realizing he doesn't have to bring things to these sorts of explosive conclusions (and a short, subdued Postscript nicely finishes things off here).
       Meyer shows great range here, both in his characters as well as the different types of investigations. A pleasant surprise is how well he does the workplaces, and management in each case: the spy agency, trying to to prove its worth (and dealing with the Americans), the detective agency Joubert goes to work for, even the bus company the missing man worked for.
       Trackers is a very solid thriller, and a fine book. Recommended.

- M.A.Orthofer, 24 October 2011

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Trackers: 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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© 2011-2021 the complete review

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