The Woman in the Blue Cloak
Deon Meyer
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Buy *The Woman in the Blue Cloak* by Deon Meyer online

The Woman in the Blue Cloak
Deon Meyer
Atlantic Monthly Press
160 pages
May 2019
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Scene One: A chase, a furtive man pursued by four strangers, unable to evade them even in a crowded village marketplace. They are hunting, and he is the prey.

Scene Two: A naked woman's body is draped over a stone wall in a tableau of death, covered only by a blue cape. It is the depth of winter.

History's fingerprint on a Dutch masterpiece intrudes on contemporary South Africa centuries later as violence claims another victim in the name of art. Local investigators are unable to deliver results. The woman's body, washed thoroughly with bleach, leaves no trace of evidence. Nor is there any identification, no clue as to the killer. The case is referred to Captain Benny Griessel and his partner, Vaughn Cupido of the Hawks -- The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations. The victim, Alicia Lewis, is a specialist in Old Dutch Masters paintings, her particular specialty the recovery of lost art. Her contacts with two men since arriving in Cape Town give Griessel and Caputo a place to start their investigation into her tragic death.

Though following the rules of a police procedural, Meyer's work is never mundane or predictable. Both characters and plot are enriched by the particulars of the country and the personalities of the now-familiar Hawks and the hierarchy of investigators, the evolution of Griessel and his team through a series of successful investigations. Griessel has found a life partner, a woman he will soon marry, much to the consternation of his friends. A veteran of many murder cases, Benny is sure, understanding the value of a woman who meets his emotional needs in a grueling and soul-searing career.

This case, the murder of a woman in her prime, is unusual and challenging with its vague connection to a 17th-century painting. The clues are elusive and diverse, from the interview with a passionate history professor to a familiar con man intimate with the criminal underbelly of those who traffic in stolen art. The image of the dead woman is in stark relief, white flesh draped in a blue cloak, posed as if for a painting.

Ultimately it is the banality of greed, whether for profit or for possession, that steals a woman's life. Between the tantalizing clues that lead to the culprit and the truth, there is a fascinating tale begun centuries before. Great art, created by a former student of Rembrandt van Rijn, who captures the beauty of the Master's mistress, Hendrickje Stoffels, posing naked in a blue cape. The Hawks capture their prey, finally, against a South African canvas shadowed by a centuries-old mystery. Life and death, captured in art and reality: Benny Griessel is in perfect harmony with his place in the play.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Luan Gaines, 2019

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