Thirteen Hours

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9780802119582: Thirteen Hours

It’s early morning in Cape Town and Bennie Griessel, homicide detective with the South African Police Service, has a bad feeling. He’s been sober for nearly six months 156 days. But day 157 is going to be tough. A teenage girl’s body has been found on the street, her throat cut. The girl was an American a P.R. nightmare in the #1 tourist destination in South African. And she wasn’t alone. Somewhere in Cape town her friend, Rachel Anderson, an innocent American girl, is hopefully still alive.

In Thirteen Hours, the latest from the man hailed as the King of South African Crime,” Detective Griessel races against the clock to unravel two murders and track down Rachel Anderson in a single day. The book opens with Rachel on the run, terrified and unsure of where to turn. She manages to hide, but overhears one of the men say something about calling their police.” Can she even turn to the cops? Then the men spot her, and she takes off again. The chase is unrelenting. Meyer is an expert at grabbing the reader and refusing to let go. The pages fly by with a sense of desperation for Rachel’s safety and a burning curiosity for why the men are after her a secret Meyer keeps until the final pages.

There is a second murder investigation in Thirteen Hours, and it’s fascinating. An alcoholic singer wakes up next to a gun and her husband’s dead body. A famous lothario music producer, Adam had a few people who might have wanted him dead, including the husband of a gospel singer who committed the Big Sin” with Adam on his desk the day before. Bennie Griessel dives into the case. He has real sympathy for Alexa, the suffering alcoholic. Temptation is never far away for Bennie, and seeing how her first drink eases her pains is dangerous. He also has some well-founded doubts about the crime scene. Adam was shot late at night, when Alexa would have been drunk and incapacitated. What’s more, there are no shell casings from the spent rounds; Adam was killed elsewhere.

Meanwhile a telephone rings in a suburban home in Indiana. Rachel has managed to reach a pay phone in a deli and call her parents. They are distraught, desperate to help and start making their own calls. Phones start ringing around the country, up the political ladder, reaching across to the U.S. Ambassador in Pretoria, the South African police, and finally Bennie Griessel. He vows to Rachel’s father that he won’t rest until he finds her, and he doesn't rest, racing to track her down and bring her home safe.

Thirteen Hours was a #1 bestseller in South Africa, and received excellent reviews. So engaging you can get paper cuts from turning pages too fast,” the Mail & Guardian said. Another paper raved the message is simple: Thirteen Hours is available, it does not matter how much it costs, just go buy it.” (Beeld) It is that good. It’s atmospheric you get a sense of Cape Town as an outsider and an insider and gripping from page one. You simply can’t put it down.

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About the Author:

Deon Meyer is an internationally acclaimed, prize-winning author of six crime novels, including Heart of the Hunter, Dead at Daybreak, and Blood Safari. His books have been translated into twenty languages. He lives on the western coast of South Africa.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1
 
05:36: a girl runs up the steep slope of Lion’s Head. The sound of her running shoes urgent on the broad footpath’s gravel.
 
At this moment, as the sun’s rays pick her out like a searchlight against the mountain, she is the image of carefree grace. Seen from behind, her dark plait bounces against the little rucksack. Her neck is deeply tanned against the powder blue of her T-shirt. There is energy in the rhythmic stride of her long legs in denim shorts. She personifies athletic youth – vigorous, healthy, focused.
 
Until she stops and looks back over her left shoulder. Then the illusion disintegrates. There is anxiety in her face. And utter exhaustion.
 
She does not see the impressive beauty of the city in the rising sun’s soft light. Her frightened eyes search wildly for movement in the tall fynbos shrubbery behind her. She knows they are there, but not how near. Her breath races – from exertion, shock and fear. It is adrenaline, the fearsome urge to live, that drives her to run again, to keep going, despite her aching legs, the burning in her chest, the fatigue of a night without sleep and the disorientation of a strange city, a foreign country and an impenetrable continent.
 
Ahead of her the path forks. Instinct spurs her to the right, higher, closer to the Lion’s rocky dome. She doesn’t think, there is no plan. She runs blindly, her arms the pistons of a machine, driving her on.
 
 
Detective Inspector Benny Griessel was asleep.
 
He dreamed he was driving a huge tanker on a downhill stretch  of the N1 between Parow and Plattekloof. Too fast and not quite incontrol. When his cell phone rang, the first shrill note was enough to draw him back to reality with a fl eeting feeling of relief. He opened his eyes and checked the radio clock. It was 05:37.
 
He swung his feet off the single bed, dream forgotten. For an instant he perched motionless on the edge, like a man hovering on a cliff. Then he stood up and stumbled to the door, down the wooden stairs to the living room below, to where he had left his phone last night. His hair was unkempt, too long between trims. He wore only a pair of faded rugby shorts. His single thought was that a call at this time of the morning could only be bad news.
 
He didn’t recognise the number on the phone’s small screen.
 
‘Griessel,’ his voice betrayed him, hoarse with the first word of the day.
 
‘Hey, Benny, it’s Vusi. Sorry to wake you.’
 
He struggled to focus, his mind fuzzy. ‘That’s OK.’
 
‘We’ve got a . . . body.’
 
‘Where?’
 
‘St Martini, the Lutheran church up in Long Street.’
 
In the church?’
 
‘No, she’s lying outside.’
 
‘I’ll be there now.’
 
He ended the call and ran a hand through his hair.
 
She, Inspector Vusumuzi Ndabeni had said.
 
Probably just a bergie. Another tramp who had drunk too much of something or other. He put the phone down beside his brand new second-hand laptop.
 
He turned, still half asleep, and bashed his shin against the front wheel of the bicycle leaning against his pawnshop sofa. He grabbed it before it toppled. Then he went back upstairs. The bicycle was a vague reminder of his financial difficulties, but he didn’t want to dwell on that now.
 
In the bedroom he took off his shorts and the musky scent of sex drifted up from his midriff.
 
Fuck.
 
The knowledge of good and evil suddenly weighed heavily on him. Along with the events of the previous night, it squeezed the last remaining drowsiness from his brain. Whatever had possessed him?
 
He tossed the shorts in an accusatory arc onto the bed and walked through to the bathroom.
 
Griessel lifted the toilet lid angrily, aimed and peed.
 
 
Suddenly she was on the tar of Signal Hill Road and spotted the woman and dog a hundred metres to the left. Her mouth shaped a cry, two words, but her voice was lost in the rasping of her breath.
 
She ran towards the woman and her dog. It was big, a Ridgeback. The woman looked about sixty, white, with a large pink sun hat, a walking stick and a small bag on her back.
 
The dog was unsettled now. Maybe it smelled her fear, sensed the panic inside her. Her soles slapped on the tar as she slowed. She stopped three metres from them.
 
‘Help me,’ said the girl. Her accent was strong.
 
‘What’s wrong?’ There was concern in the woman’s eyes. She stepped back. The dog growled and strained on the lead, to get closer to the girl.
 
‘They’re going to kill me.’
 
The woman looked around in fear. ‘But there’s nobody.’
 
The girl looked over her shoulder. ‘They’re coming.’
 
Then she took the measure of the woman and dog and knew they wouldn’t make any difference. Not here on the open slope of the mountain. Not against them. She would put them all in danger.
 
‘Call the police. Please. Just call the police,’ she said and ran again, slowly at first, her body reluctant. The dog lunged forward and barked once. The woman pulled back on the lead.
 
‘But why?’
 
‘Please,’ she said and jogged, feet dragging, down the tar road towards Table Mountain. ‘Just call the police.’
 
She looked back once, about seventy paces on. The woman was still standing there bewildered, frozen to the spot.
 
 
Benny Griessel fl ushed the toilet and wondered why he hadn’t seen last night coming. He hadn’t gone looking for it, it had just happened. Jissis, he shouldn’t feel so guilty, he was only human after all.
 
But he was married.
 
If you could call it a marriage. Separate beds, separate tables and separate homes. Damn it all, Anna couldn’t have everything. She couldn’t throw him out of his own house and expect him to support two households, expect him to be sober for six fucking months, and celibate on top of that.
 
At least he was sober. One hundred and fifty-six days now. More than five months of struggling against the bottle, day after day, hour after hour, till now.
 
God, Anna must never hear about last night. Not now. Less than a month before his term of exile was served, the punishment for his drinking. If Anna found out, he was fucked, all the struggle and suffering for nothing.
 
He sighed and stood in front of the mirrored cabinet to brush his teeth. Had a good look at himself. Greying at the temples, wrinkles at the corner of his eyes, the Slavic features. He had never been much of an oil painting.
 
He opened the cabinet and took out toothbrush and toothpaste.
 
Whatever had she seen in him, that Bella? There had been a moment last night when he wondered if she was sleeping with him because she felt sorry for him, but he had been too aroused, too bloody grateful for her soft voice and big breasts and her mouth, jissis, that mouth, he had a thing about mouths, that’s where the trouble had started. No. It had begun with Lize Beekman, but like Anna would believe that?
 
Jissis.
 
Benny Griessel brushed his teeth hurriedly and urgently. Then he jumped under the shower and opened the taps on full, so he could wash all the accusing scents from his body.
 
 
It wasn’t a bergie. Griessel’s heart skipped a beat as he climbed over the spiked railings of the church wall and saw the girl lying there. The running shoes, khaki shorts, orange camisole and the shape of her arms and legs told him she was young. She reminded him of his daughter.
 
He walked down the narrow tarmac path, past tall palms and pine trees and a yellow notice board: STRICTLY AUTHORISED. CARS ONLY. AT OWNER’S OWN RISK, to the spot just left of the pretty grey church where, on the same tar, she lay stretched out.
 
He looked up at the perfect morning. Bright, with hardly any wind, just a faint breeze bearing fresh sea scents up the mountain. It was not a time to die.
 
Vusi stood beside her with Thick and Thin from Forensics, a police photographer and three men in SAPS uniform. Behind Griessel’s back on the Long Street pavement there were more uniforms, at least four in the white shirts and black epaulettes of the Metro Police, all very self-important. Together with a group of bystanders they leaned their arms on the railings and stared at the motionless figure.
 
‘Morning, Benny,’ said Vusi Ndabeni in his quiet manner. He was of the same average height as Griessel, but seemed smaller. Lean and neat, the seams of his trousers sharply pressed, snow-white shirt with tie, shoes shined. His peppercorn hair was cut short and shaved in sharp angles, goatee impeccably clipped. He wore surgical rubber gloves. Griessel had been introduced to him for the first time last Thursday, along with the other five detectives he had been asked to ‘mentor’ throughout the coming year. That was the word that John Africa, Regional Commissioner: Detective Services and Criminal Intelligence, had used. But when Griessel was alone in Africa’s office it was ‘We’re in the shit, Benny. We fucked up the Van der Vyver case, and now the brass say it’s because we’ve just been having too much of a good time in the Cape and it’s time to pull finger, but what can I do? I’m losing my best people and the new ones are clueless, totally green. Benny, can I count on you?’
 
An hour later he wa...

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