John Maytham's Book Reviews

John Maytham's book review: Spies, murder and liberation

Take a listen to John's book reviews for the week

Spook Street by Mick Herron

What happens when an old spook loses his mind? Does the Service have a retirement home for those who know too many secrets but don’t remember they’re secret?

Or does someone take care of the senile spy for good?

These are the questions River Cartwright must ask when his grandfather, a Cold War–era operative, starts to forget to wear pants and begins to suspect everyone in his life has been sent by the Service to watch him.

But River has other things to worry about. A bomb goes off in the middle of a busy shopping center and kills forty innocent civilians.

The agents of Slough House have to figure out who is behind this act of terror before the situation escalates.

The Shallows by Ingrid Winterbach

After separating from his partner, painter Nick Steyn moves to Cape Town’s City Bowl. He soon befriends the young boarder who moves in with him.

One night she doesn’t return home and his attempts to trace her prove futile.

A few weeks after her disappearance, prosperous artist Buks Verhoef makes an offer on Nick’s house. Nick starts to wonder whether these events are related and, if so, could Nick’s former friend, the author of the outrageous novel The Shallows, Victor Schoeman, be involved?

In true Winterbach-style, a parallel narrative interlinks the novel’s characters and events.

An anonymous Stellenbosch woman writing a monograph on the famous Olivier brothers witnesses the murder of Buks Verhoef in a coffee shop.

Soon thereafter a sinister man starts stalking her. Could this menacing stranger possibly be Victor Schoeman?

My Own Liberator by Dikgang Moseneke

In My Own Liberator, Dikgang Moseneke pays homage to the many people and places that have helped to define and shape him.

In tracing his ancestry, the influence on both his maternal and paternal sides is evident in the values they imbued in their children – the importance of family, the value of hard work and education, an uncompromising moral code, compassion for those less fortunate and unflinching refusal to accept an unjust political regime or acknowledge its oppressive laws.

As a young activist in the Pan-Africanist Congress, at the tender age of fifteen, Moseneke was arrested, detained and, in 1963, sentenced to ten years on Robben Island for participating in anti-apartheid activities.

Physical incarceration, harsh conditions and inhumane treatment could not imprison the political prisoners’ minds, however, and for many the Island became a school not only in politics but an opportunity for dedicated study, formal and informal.

It set the young Moseneke on a path towards a law degree that would provide the bedrock for a long and fruitful legal career and see him serve his country in the highest court.

My Own Liberator charts Moseneke’ s rise as one of the country’s top legal minds, who not only helped to draft the interim constitution, but for fifteen years acted as a guardian of that constitution for all South Africans, helping to make it a living document for the country and its people.


This article first appeared on CapeTalk : John Maytham's book review: Spies, murder and liberation


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