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The October Killings by Wessel Ebersohn
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312655952
Date: 18 January 2011 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Abigail Bukula can't forget that October night when commandos of the evil South African Apartheid Regime stormed a house in Maseru and killed most everyone inside. Thanks to the intervention of friendly Leon Lourens, Abigail was spared being shot by the ruthless Marinus van Jaarsveld. Twenty years later, Lourens is an automobile mechanic and van Jaarsveld is serving a life sentence at the Pretoria Central Prison complex for refusing to confess to war crimes. Abigail, a government employee for the Department of Justice, learns that Lourens and van Jaarsveld are the only survivors of the Maseru raid. One by one, on the anniversary of October 22nd, the other men have been garroted with piano wire. When Lourens disappears, Abigail seeks the aid of Yudel Gordon, the eccentric psychologist at Pretoria Central Prison, to help her find Lourens before he is murdered.

During the Apartheid Regime, Wessel Ebersohn wrote a series of international best-selling thrillers based on Yudel Gordon. Decades later, now that Apartheid has ended, Ebersohn has written a debut mystery based on a female heroine, Abigail Bukula, who seeks help from the much older Gordon. The October Killings focuses primarily on Abigail and the suffering she endured as a child. The reader doesn't discover the extent of her nightmarish ordeal until nearly the end of the novel when she confesses it to Gordon. I was truly shocked and horrified and felt great sorrow for her. Believe it not, I also felt sorrow for the novel's evil antagonist. Early in the story, the reader learns that he was also abused as a child. His father, a supporter of the Apartheid Regime, was not only cruel to blacks but he also abused his four sons by severely beating them with weapons that left scars.

The October Killings deals much with child abuse. The seeds of anger, prejudice and revenge are planted in us when we are young. Apartheid may be finished, but it planted seeds that won't be fully harvested until generations later. While reading The October Killings, I kept comparing the Apartheid Regime to the Nazi Regime. The senseless cruelty and bloodshed towards someone of another color or race is present in all its horrifying forms. Furthermore, there exists good and evil people on both sides of the movement. Leon Lourens of the Apartheid Regime refused to kill; he shielded Abigail. (Likewise, there were Germans who protected Jews.) The novel's protagonist is looked upon as a hero by many blacks, but he was cruel and sadistic towards Abigail.

Like so many other mysteries set in foreign lands, The October Killings made me glad to live in America where everyone is free. Yes, we do have racial problems here but they are not nearly as bad as what is currently taking place in South Africa. Apartheid has ended but the prejudice exhibited by both blacks and whites has not. In the novel, there are characters who moan and complain that they are no better off than during the days of Apartheid. Sometimes, one must look for happiness within one's soul rather than within one's environment. Speaking of environments, I don't wish to offend South Africans when I say that I don't desire to visit their country after reading The October Killings. There is still too much poverty and civil unrest. In the novel, tire burnings and riots are occurring in small townships where citizens live in shacks with corrugated iron for roofs and plywood for walls.

Wessel Ebersohn's The October Killings is an intriguing political thriller with much violence and bloodshed. I found my heart racing with suspense while praying for Abigail Bukula and her adorable sidekick, Yudel Gordon, to locate Leon Lourens before he is murdered. There are several subplots involving Abigail's husband Robert Mokoapi, a highly successful newspaper editor, and Marinus van Jaarsveld who doesn't want to stay in maximum security for the rest of his life. The ending was bloody and shocking; however it was left open for a sequel. (After looking at Ebersohn's personal website, I see that he has already written one, Those Who Love Night, in which Abigail travels to Zimbabwe in search of ten missing activists.) An enjoyable, gripping read, The October Killings is highly recommended for those who love foreign political thrillers.

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