Present Tense by Natalie Conyer

‘Keep a record. Do it yourself, boykie, every time.’

Cape Town, South Africa.  A retired police chief, Piet Pieterse, has been murdered.  A tyre placed around his neck, doused in petrol and set alight.  Necklaced.  An execution from the apartheid era and generally confined to collaborators.  Why would a retired police chief be killed in this way?  And why now?

Schalk Lourens is a policeman who once worked with Pieterse.  There are aspects of the past he’d rather forget, but when he’s assigned to investigate Pieterse’s murder, past and present collide.

There’s a lot of pressure to close the case.  A suspect is arrested, but some aspects just don’t make sense.  In the meantime, it’s an election year in South Africa and there is plenty of unrest as candidates seek to make their claims for election.   One of the candidates is Gideon Radebe, a charismatic ANC candidate who appeals to many.

Lourens’s investigations lead him into danger, both professionally and personally.  He’s a flawed but (mostly) likeable character who is still adjusting between the previous and current regimes.  He’s determined to find out who killed Pieterse.  But at what cost?

I enjoyed this novel and very much appreciated the glossary provided by the author. I would have been lost without it.  I found Schalk Lourens an intriguing character: capable of both thorough investigation and dreadful judgement.

I recommend ‘Present Tense’ to anyone who enjoys well-written, fast-paced police mysteries.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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