Wessel Ebersohn writes thrillers that illuminate the society and culture of South Africa. The October Killings is his first book based in the new, post-apartheid South Africa.
The October Killings also marks the first appearance of character Abigail Bukula, who will be central to a continuing series of novels. Her partner in this novel, Yudel Gordon, prison psychologist, was the principal character in a series of previous novels, beginning with A Lonely Place to Die (Pantheon, 1979).
While this is an adult thriller with adult characters, its teen appeal lies in its global setting and the fact that the book’s events originate in Abigail’s teen years.
EBERSOHN, Wessel. The October Killings: A Novel. 336p. Minotaur. 2011. Tr $24.99. ISBN 978-0-312-65595-2. LC number unavailable.
Adult/High School–Wessel Ebersohn wrote political fiction in South Africa in the 1980s that was frequently banned by the government and eventually lead to a self-imposed exile. He has returned to writing with The October Killings, a sharp and provocative mystery set in the modern post-Apartheid era. Abigail Bukula heads the gender desk of the South African Department of Justice. With an impressive title but little autonomy, she finds that the daily bureaucratic frustrations are approaching the breaking point. Then Leon Lourens comes to her in desperation. She last saw him 20 years ago when they were teenagers and she was living with her parents, African National Congress activists. He was a member of a team of white soldiers sent to invade her home. When things went horribly wrong, Leon defied orders and saved her life. Now the soldiers making up that team are being murdered one-by-one in identical fashion each year on the anniversary of the raid. Leon is one of only two left alive, with the target date just five days away. Complex ideas and characters are made relatable through a taught and suspenseful plot. Teens will be absorbed by the underlying message that there are no easy answers to many political dilemmas, even when the motive is simply to do the right thing. No previous knowledge of South Africa is necessary to appreciate the drama, but readers may be inspired to move on to a deeper exploration of its past and present through the writings of J.M. Coetzee.–Priscille Dando, Robert E. Lee high School, Fairfax County, VA