DIVINE JUSTICE is not a comfortable book for a romantic like me to read. It is, however, fast paced and very well written, and clearly deserves its inclusion on the 2011 Sunday Times' list of top South African thrillers.
The first adventure of the one-legged Private Investigator Rae Valentine, the strength of DIVINE JUSTICE lies in its well-constructed plot and vivid descriptions. From the opening scene of a devastating fire on Table Mountain to the final action where Rae must fight for her life and her sanity, this hard-boiled, edgy story thrums along with gritty details of the seamier side of life in Cape Town.
In Rae Valentine, Hichens gives us a spirited female character, as vulnerable as she is tough and intelligent. She doesn't get much help from her unreliable partners, who must struggle with their own demons while Rae struggles with villains who are dangerous fanatics and provide a taut edge of uncertainty throughout the book. When people are that crazy and hate-filled, anything can happen. This constant sense of imminent loss of control by any of the Boyz, or the Pastor (who has a fetish for amputees), keeps the tension high right until the end.
Throughout the story, Hichens explores the themes of trust (or lack of it), religious fundamentalism and survival. When desperately fighting for her life, Rae must find the mental muscle to do anything it takes to survive…
If you like noir crime writing where the world is not a nice place, colourful characters run amok, a city burns with both flames and rage, a few mad capers take place in a dark underbelly of South Africa and its neighbour Namibia, I guarantee DIVINE JUSTICE will keep you turning the pages as fast as you can.