Book review: Hammerman

Hammerman, A Walking Shadow

Mike Nicol

Umuzi, Penguin Random House

Review: Karen Watkins

A spate of murders, a police captain with a secret, politicians on the make and a spy from Belgium feature in a political thriller by national treasure, crime writer Mike Nicol.

Fish Pescado of Muizenberg is a private detective who would rather spend his days surfing a shore break or peddling cannabis products.

The story begins in 2018 with the body of a woman found by children in the Strandfontein dunes.

But then the consequences of this everyday crime escalates to fatal shooting incidents of an annoying politician outside Parliament; his number two is executed with a high-class sex worker; an ANC cabinet minister as he leaves a security compound; two police officers; a senior member of the SAPS Anti-Gang Unit, Colonel André “AJ” Jacobs, found dead in his car; and an almost pensioner in his beach house. AJ’s widow wants answers and asks Fish to find them.

Meanwhile his partner and lawyer, Vicki Khan, is not only in a coma and fighting for her life, but secrets from her past during her time as a spook with the State Security Agency Bureau are suspected in the present as a threat to her safety.

Fish moves from the V&A Waterfront to the ganglands of the Cape Flats, industrial estates, retirement homes and a farm in the Moordernaarskaroo.

Everything points to a tie-in with the assassination of the Swedish Prime Minister, Olaf Palme in 1986. While countless investigations never tied up the motive for the murder, one hypothesis points to the South African security branch hit squad having undertaken this deed.

This possibility adds an international aspect to an already complicated set of events.

Sound confusing? It is. You need to be awake and focused as the story moves at a rollicking pace, taking many unexpected twists and turns. It’s like a fast-paced action movie. I could picture every scene. That’s one of the things I enjoy when reading the works of local authors.

Also on the plus side is that the story is entertaining and humorous, keeping the reader guessing with short chapters blending fact and fiction.

Hammerman is the fifth and final thriller in the Fish and Vicki series. It can equally be read and enjoyed as a standalone.