Meyer, Deon. Dead Before Dying. Tr. from Afrikaans by Madeleine van Biljon. Little, Brown. May 2006. c. 352p. ISBN 0-316-00013-2. $24.95. Mystery.

Capt. Mat Joubert, a detective in the South African Police Service, is despondent. Two years ago, his wife died in the line of duty (exactly how is revealed in a heart-rending scene late in the novel). The new police chief wants him to lose weight, quit smoking, and see a psychiatrist. And his next-door neighbor’s 18-year-old daughter is trying to seduce him. Not to mention other pressures, like tracking down a serial killer at work in Cape Town and stopping a bank robber who changes disguises with each attempt. As Joubert wrestles with his inner demons during sessions with an attractive female psychiatrist and tackles his weight by measuring portions of health food in grams and milliliters, the dead bodies pile up. To save his job, Joubert will have to solve the mystery that ties together seven seemingly unrelated murder victims. In his third novel, Meyer (Dead at Daybreak) creates an enjoyable character-driven crime story that gently tweaks some of the genre’s stereotypes. An appealing protagonist, a plot rich in detail, and a shocking conclusion make this a gripping read. Highly recommended.

Library Journal, 131, no. 8 (May 1, 2006), 72.

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