Life in Cape Town, South Africa, is bleak - poverty endemic, drugs rampant, abalone farms along the coast a tempting target for poachers. The rich live behind gates while the desperate scramble for opportunities, legal or illegal.
Private investigators Jeffrey Mendes and Vincent Saldana barely eke out a living. Mendes (aka Mullet) delivers marijuana to special customers on the side; Vincent drowns the pain of losing his beloved wife in drunken binges that go on for days. Not the most recommended agency in the area, so when two calls come in simultaneously for work, Mullet is anxious that they accept both assignments.
Marina Welsh asks specifically for Saldana when her abalone farm is hit by poachers. Mullet’s job is to follow an unfaithful husband, a wealthy financial consultant: his wife, Judith Oxford, seeks pictures to use as evidence against him. Mullet is good to go - all he needs is to prod Vincent into action, sober him up, and make some much-needed money.
Under the pseudonym of Sam Cole, authors Mike Nichols and Joanne Hichens find fertile territory in Cape Town: a bevy of minor criminals; former cops making a buck after disillusioning stints in law enforcement; and more sophisticated felons, from wealthy financial consultant Oxford to international Triad operative Jimmy Woo, whose side business pits sociopathic “hunters” against helpless street boys.
This is no place for sissies. Posses of homeless boys wander the streets intimidating passers-by while poachers risk imprisonment for the profit to be made on stolen abalone for export to the rich market in the Far East. When a series of headless bodies are found by police, Mullet refuses to endorse their assumption of a serial killer at work. Mullet suspects something more complex and innovative.
Over time, two apparently separate cases cross paths. Vincent and Mullet face an intricate scheme by clever and deadly crooks, the PIs the ultimate pawns. Too many coincidences and familiar names cause Mullet a few nights’ unease at the prospect of more sinister motives. Toss in an ex-con who has a dark history with Vincent, and the two investigators are on a certain collision course with violence.
The landscape is perfectly rendered in an engaging thriller that involves Mullet and Saldana in a deadly game where the players are heavy-hitters. Greed, miscreants and bold murderers make for a wild ride where eccentrics and psychopaths are the norm, not the exception. From the vanishing wilds of the coast where abalone farms are fast disappearing to the random brutality of city streets, this is a book to be savored - outrageous, shocking, and all too real; a clever plot, fascinating characters, a bleak peek into a scary scenario.