Dead Before DyingDead Before Dying
Author: Deon Meyer
Narrator: Simon Vance
Published 2012 by HighBridge Audio
10.75 hours – Unabridged

Having listened to Trackers about a year ago, I got excited about the opportunity to listen to and review Dead Before Dying, featuring the same author-narrator team. First published in print in the original Afrikaans in 1996 and in English translation in 1999, this first novel by South African Deon Meyer is one of several by the author seeing audio issue by HighBridge over the past year or so. And this is excellent news for mystery/thriller listeners. If you’ve already discovered Meyer’s storytelling mastery, you can now enjoy it on a whole new level through Simon Vance’s voice artistry. If Deon Meyer and his gritty, complex portrayals of today’s Cape Town are new to you, start here: you’re in for a listener’s treat.

Dead Before Dying marks the first appearance of police captain Mat Joubert of the Murder and Robbery Squad, whom I got to know from his role in Trackers, set some 15 years later. Here, Joubert is in a dark place personally, still reeling from the violent death of his cop wife two years earlier. He’s hanging in there on the job, but just barely. An abrasive new boss with newfangled ideas arrives, just as Joubert begins investigating a string of apparently random killings in the Cape Town area involving the same (very distinctive) murder weapon. Joubert finds himself thrust into mandatory psychological counseling and a rigorous diet regime (courtesy of the new colonel), making it even harder than usual to cope with the daily routine of violence and death. The pressure is on for Joubert and the rest of the squad to figure out the common thread linking a series of murder victims with no apparent connection to one another – beyond the fact that they were all shot with a 100-year-old German gun loaded with original bullets. Further complicating matters is a serial bank robber with a distinctive style, whose work just may be somehow tangled up with the mounting roster of mystifying murders.

As always, Simon Vance does an admirable job of voicing all characters at hand, here spanning the class, race and gender spectrum of modern South Africa. The listener thrills to each new twist in the plot, while rooting for Mat Joubert to pull himself out of the hole and learn to live again. A note to those who wish to read further into Deon Meyer’s works: Dead Before Dying also introduces Sergeant Benny Griessel, who features prominently in later novels, including Thirteen Hours and Seven Days. Let Meyer and Vance show you around the cops and crooks of Cape Town; Dead Before Dying is the perfect place to begin.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher as part of the Solid Gold Reviewer program administered by Audiobook Jukebox. No payment was received in return for a review. The receipt of the book had no influence on the opinions expressed in my review.