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Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Steam Pig – James McClure RE-RELEASED

When the wrong body is sent to the crematorium it’s either an opening for a comedy act or a dramatic turn. Since the body in question was involved in a murder investigation Lieutenant Kramer was, to be expected, more than a little concerned.

Set in Trekkersburg, a small unfashionable town just north of Durban, South Africa this police drama sets itself down smack dab in the middle of 1960’s apartheid. Bantu gangsters fill the town with crime which Kramer and his surprising side kick, Sergeant Zondi, a Bantu native get to solve. Zondi is able to get the other kaffirs to open up to him where they would not have to a white police officer and so the remarkable team gains a foothold on local crime.

The surprise we find in The Steam Pig is that the criminals are local politicians who get themselves mixed up with a Miss Le Roux, who it turns out is a mixed-race female passing herself off as white. Unable to face that they have had a relationship with the young lady she turns up on the slab at the mortuary.

Kramer seems to stumble through the mystery, the debut novel in a series starring the two policemen, as clues seem to get dropped at his feet. Luckily for him he is astute enough to recognize them and along with the information passed on from the Bantu informant, the unfortunate Shoe Shoe, and the invalid Indian Moosa, who watches the neighborhood from his upstairs bedroom window, the mystery begins to unravel as the pieces fall in place.

Just the title alone, The Steam Pig, spoke of a juicy, mouth-watering story. I knew in an instance that is somehow referred to the beautiful blonde laying on the stone slab, but McClure keeps the secret literally until the last page. A taut, secretive story that leans on the hate of an apartheid society, to the shocking conclusion that shows that nothing is as it appears, and that even a mother cannot grieve publically for her daughter in case the secret of their life is revealed.

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