One of the essential elements of any book is the place or setting. Behind every page-turner is a story created of a world that draws the reader into the manuscript. One of my favourite writers, Deon Meyer, did this expertly with the well-liked 13 Hours. He constructed a story around Cape Town and took readers up and down familiar streets and into popular cafés. I walked the streets of the story collecting evidence to help solve the murders. It all felt so real because of the recognisable details mentioned. Ian Rankin does it with his Rebus crime novels set in Edinburgh. Having been to the historic city I visualise the progression of the fiction every time I help Rebus solve a crime.
Never has a book felt more real than with Irna van Zyl’s Dead in the Water. This book is about the shark diving industry and abalone poaching. Realities that point to one place – the Cape Whale Coast. Main character, Detective Storm van der Merwe, wore me out with her trips between Hermanus and Gansbaai. Deyer Island and Hermanus Harbour, poachers and divers, sharks, whales and abalone … all too familiar.
Fiction favoured Hermanus before. Never the way Irna van Zyl fused local geography and realism as in Dead in the Water. The book is selling well in Hermanus. Apparently better than any other book referencing the area. Why? Simply because it is a great book? Also because the topics are real and controversial. Also because it is an immersive read set in an area that many know so well. Where many have holidayed or will be holidaying again this summer. A place close to our hearts.
Thank you Irna for a skilful account of my hometown and for talking about your love for the Stanford restaurant Havercroft and our local wines of which I am also fond and proud. Thank you for capturing Cape Whale Coast in such a quality read.