dimanche 16 août 2015



Cobra - Hodder and Stoughton - 2014

the Story

It's common knowledge South Africa in general, and The Cape in particular, is the land and place for tourists aiming for adventure, big unknown spaces, sights and species.
Even the inner city mix of languages, ethnies, social statuses and pickpockets like Tyrone doesn't discourage them. Lilian Alvarez should have known that.
She should have known too that a journey planned on the spot by her Cambridge more than twenty years older lover-teacher in applied mathematiques might be eventful for both of them.
But don't try to compare the so-called "rascal" deficiency that puts Benny Griessel in an emotional mess about his love for Alexa to the search of a stone-cold killer whose shellcasings are engraved with a snake. A Cobra.

Extract page 183

"...When you worked with death and violence and everything that was sick in a community, impossible hours for a ridiculous salary, then you wanted to, no you HAD to, believe you had good and right on your side.
Otherwise you lost your self-respect, your faith in the whole business, and you began to ask yourself: What was it all for?"

The Characters

As the novel is subtitled "A BENNY GRIESSEL Novel", Benny is back on tracks. He's now Captain of DPCI in Bellville, showing a nice eighty-three per cent crime solving rate but has been involved in 2006 and 2009 in disciplinary hearings and acquitted every time.
He has joined the "Hawks" six months ago. Benny's son Fritz wants to go to a film school and his daughter Carla is still dating rugby player Etzebeth who has been kicked off the Vodacom Team after a fight.

Benny has moved to ALEXA BARNARD's house in Brownlow Street three weeks ago. Alexa has now been sober for a hundred and fifty days. She has inherited from her late husband his record company, Afrisound, which brings a constant stream of royalties.
Seems to be pretty neat but Benny doesn't feel he fits in with  Alexa, him being a poor cop when she's a successful singer again as her comeback album "Bittersoet" does better than expected and concerts are fully booked. And she has arranged a gig for Benny: play bass with Liz Beekman in concert next week. But he feels guilty about lying to everybody when he stays and sleeps at the office instead of being home with Alexa.
Benny tells DOC BARKHUISEN, his seventy-year-old AA mentor, that he is not used to living with someone, having spent years avoiding his family in every night and day drinks. Benny's lie has more to do with his "rascal" and his self-confidence in his sexual ability to satisfy Alexa's needs.


"Doc was the one person he did not want to lie on. it was a sacred relationship, the one with your AA sponsor if you truly wanted to quit drinking. It was the cornerstone of rehabilitation, in the end, it was your only lifebuoy in the stormy sea of alcoholic thirst. If you couldn't trust one another, you were basically fucked. For the past few years, Doc had been the one constant in his life, the one he shared everything with.

The Characters

In the previous novel "Seven Days", we learn how the "Hawks" brigade is created and who is in. No big change in "Cobra" with Brigadier MUSAD MANIE still being commanding officer of the Hawks and Colonel ZOLA NYATHI "the giraffe", commanding officer of the Violent Crimes Group in which Benny works in.
Captain PHILIP VAN WYCK, from Hawks' information management centre, and VAUGHN CUPIDO have mentored Griessel about new technologies these last few months:
" An HTC, Benna. Just don't go and get a Samsung. Those guys are the new illuminatis, taking over the world, gimmick by gimmick. Never trust a phone company that makes fridges, pappie."

Other recurrent detectives are involved. Ladies first with MBALI KALENI called "Heavy Hawk", "Cactus Flower" or behind her back "that fokken Mbali". She will struggle between her self integrity and respect of the law and the means needed to solve the investigation.
Major BENEDICT BOSHIGO is Hawks' expert in financial affairs. He has passed a B degree in Economics at Boston University's Metropolitan College in the States. 

When more detectives are called in to help find evidence, Musad Manie allots four more guys, two of them having been part of previous novels: Lieutenant VUSUMUZI NDABENI and Lieutenant CEDRIC RADEBE who is called "Ulinda" which means "Honey Badger", a former light heavy weight boxer who did four professionnal fights and lost four times on points.

The two other extra-Hawks detectives are Captain FRANKIE FILLANDER and Captain MOOIWILLEM LIEBENBERG, DPCI, best looking detective and most respected skirt-chaser.

The start point of the investigation is the supposed abduction of a British citizen in a rented farmhouse where the dead bodies of two well-trained bodyguards and a room service employee of the location have been found. These two bodyguards work for a private security company called Body Armour where JEANETTE LOUW is the managing director. She was the Regimental Sergeant Major of the Women's Army College in George. She's around fifty, with big bottle blonde hair, no make up and a deep smoker's voice.

The character who disturbs the transaction by robbing a purse in which important informations are on a memory card is TYRONE KLEINBOOI. He is "dark as full roast coffee beans, aged twenty one and one point eight metres  tall".
Tyrone is a very good pickpocket. His foster father "Uncle Sollie" taught him everything and Tyrone is very clever anyway. He is helping financially his sister who is studying in Stellenbosch to become a medical doctor; his current urge is to find more than twenty thousand rands before the end of December.
When he's asked about his incomes, he says he's got many painter jobs. He rents a place in Ella Street, in the backyard of a rich muslim's grand house for four-fifty a month.

Extract: Vaughn Cupido page 19

" That's the trouble with this country, Benna. it's just naked greed, no fucking ethics. Everybody just wants to score, it's just "skep, pappie, skep", before doomsday comes.
Seventy thousand bucks for a week's personal security? We're in the wrong business, I'm telling you. And that lesbeterian wants to bliksem me? What for? Because I tell it like it is? She can't do that, I mean, what do you say?
There's just no appropriate response to a lezzy, you gefok if you say come try me, you're gefok if you zip your lip. There should be a law against that sort of thing. Wants to bliksem me? With seventy thousand in her back pocket and her Calvin Klein suit and that hair...
And what is this here? German owner of a Boer farm with a French name, where a Brit is kidnapped. Fucking United Nations of Crime, that's where we're heading. And why?
Cause they bring their troubles here like those French at Sutherland, and the Dewani thing, and who gets the rap? South Fokken Afrika."

The Investigation

Benny Griessel, still in yesterday's clothes, blood shot eyes and not shaved starts his day job under the suspicious eyes of his colleagues with a triple homicide which happened in a guest-house at La Petite Margaux. A farmer and two supposed bodyguards have been found dead, one head shot each.

What bothers first Benny and Vaughn Cupido is the noticeable struggle and fight in the bedroom. Why did a well trained stone cold killer, who puts three men to death without a single effort, have to wrestle against a fourth man?
Jeanette Louw tells them the two bodyguards were her employees. The missing client, who needed to get out of sight for a while, is a british citizen called Paul Anthony Morris.

Tyrone Kleinbooi robs a purse from a middle-aged woman touring with others in Stellenbosch.
The forensic duo Jimmy and Arnold find some cartridges cases. It is a Cor-Bon 45 ACP+ P which can only be shot by the most recent forty-five pistols. They notice a tiny engraving on the shellcases: a rearing snake, a cobra and the letters NM.

All the clothes belonging to Morris are brand new, even the underwear, the suitcase and the passport, issued in Marseille, France, only one week before the arrival in South-Africa. No wallet, no cellphone, no Ipad or computer were found in the house but it seems the abductor has been searching for something else in the bedroom.

Griessel, along with the other detectives, thinks that Morris has been kidnapped. He goes to Body Armor to ask Jeanette Louw about Morris' next of kin who could be possibly contacted for a ransom.
Back to Hawks offices, Benny informs Colonel Zola Nyathi about the case. Zola then orders him to go home, freshen up and go and have a meeting with his AA sponsor.
Griessel later comes back to police offices where Van Wyck's team is trying to trace all the communications to or from Franschhoek and La Petite Margaux.

Nyathi and Griessel meet the British Consul General who, reluctant at first, let them learn, off the record, that the missing person is David Patrick Adair, Professor at Cambridge. He has invented an algorithm which became the standard in tracking terrorists through international banking systems.
Late at night, Van Wyck wakes Benny up because Interpol files are linking the Margaux murders to fifteen others, mainly in Europe.

On the next morning, Giraffe Nyathi asks Benny to reveal everything to the other Hawks involved. Benny sends two detectives to Cape international Airport and two others to Johannesburg Airport to check the video material at arrival halls.

Tyrone steals a couple of cellphones and wallets. He tries to rob another tourist but get caught by a security guard. In the Security Control Room of the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront Center, he sees four-month-old pictures of himself and a video showing him trying to trick the young tourist just before being caught.

But as they are waiting for the SASP to come and take Tyrone into custody, a hitman rushes in the control room and kills five security guards. Tyrone manages to escape from the killer who shoots him in the back and grabs Tyrone's rucksack containing about two thousand rands in cash and robbed items.

Having Tyrone's cellphone, the killer calls Tyrone's sister to ask her his address to give back the phone he "found".
Benny receives a mysterious call from a mysterious woman who calls herself Joni Mitchell. It seems that she knows a lot about what has been decided in higher spheres and warns him about the takeover by the SSA on the Adair investigation.

Tyrone is back home. The wound between the shoulders is a big scratch caused by a bullet. After a shower and some fresh clothes, he's about to leave when someone asks for him in the intercom, pushing him to run away once again while the killer shoots the daughter of his flat-owner.
Zola Nyathi orders Benny to hand over all case material to the Department of State Security. He sends Mbali Kaleni to the Sea Point and V and A crime scene. But when he is told and warned by Benny and Vaughn that Hawks offices and detectives cellphones are bugged, Giraffe tells them to go on under the sheet with the Adair case.

Tyrone is out of reach but the killer phones Nadia Kleinbooi to meet her after class.
Mbali asks Benny to come to the Waterfront shooting where shell casings found on the crime scene match those of La Petite Margaux.
Tyrone tries to call Nadia to warn her but the killer kidnaps her. Two students have seen the coloured girl grabbed by the arm and harshly dragged into a SUV by a white man. When they try to follow the Nissan X-Trail, the car blocks them and two men shoot in the tyres and grab their cellphones.

At the Waterfront Centre, Kaleni and Griessel learn that another shooting, probably linked to the two others, just happened quite near in the neighborhood. They have noticed on CCTV footage that the girl who has been robbed by Tyrone before he got caught is the one connected with Professor Adair.
When they identify the Cobra killer coming in the security centre, Tyrone's leaving out after the shooting, followed by the killer, Benny has the videos deleted before the SSA takes over the whole investigation.

Tyrone calls his sister, the Cobra killer answers and tells him he wants a memory card which was in the wallet he stole before getting caught on the V and A Waterfront Center or he will kill her.
Tyrone makes a copy of the memory card.

Having been expelled from the Waterfront security room by the SSA, Mbali, Benny and Cupido go to Tyrone's flat where they learn, from the grieving owner, who is the pickpocket they saw before on video and that he has a sister who studies in Stellenbosch and who might be in trouble.
When out of the Sea Point crime scene, Griessel gets a text message from Nyathi urging him to terminate the Cobra investigation.

Tyrone arranges for a meeting in Bellville with the Cobra killer.
At the Hawks office, Griessel, Kaleni and Cupido are told by Brigadier Musad Manie and Giraffe Nyathi to end their investigation. But in a room free of hearing devices, Mbali refuses to let go the case.
The anonymous Joni Mitchell calls Benny and, after a while, almost begs him to keep on investigating and confesses being head of monitoring programme of SSA. She reveals her name: Janina Mentz.
Tyrone has to hire an assistant in Bellville to secure the transaction between him and the Cobra killer.

Benny drives up to Stellenbosch to see Tyrone's sister, not knowing yet that she has been abducted. He learns from Stellenbosch SAPS Brigadier Piet Mentoor that two students witnessed the kidnapping, have been stopped when two guys shot in the tyres, caliber 45 with shells engraved with the Snake. He understands that it has to be a group of well-trained hitmen who killed the bodyguards and abducted Adair and Nadia Kleinbooi.

Radebe and Ndabeni have identified the Cobra at the arrival of O.R. Tambo Airport. He travels under the name of Hector Malot (like the french author).

The exchange turns bad when a security man interferes as he sees Nadia walking seemingly like a drunk or a "drugged". Nadia is wounded after being shot by the Cobra killer who shoots the security man too before being knocked down by Tyrone who manages to find a vehicle to bring his sister to an hospital.

Griessel asks the campus caretaker to open Nadia's room where he finds a phone number and calls it.
Tyrone picks up the telephone ringing in Nadia's bag while he is filling in forms with an administrative employee of the hospital. His reluctant answers makes Benny feel that Tyrone can't answer because he might be held against his will by the Cobra killer. Benny asks Mbali to trace the phone number.

Mbali finds the hotel where Lilian Alvarez, the young tourist robbed by Tyrone just before his arrest, is staying.
Then Griessel and Mbali go to the hospital to interview Nadia while Boshigo and Cupido do the same with Lilian Alvarez at her hotel. She tells them a very nice story about the mission Professor Adair had entrusted her to do but the story is too convenient for Cupido who insists and make her confess to having an affair with Adair.

Nadia is conscious and relates what happened, telling Mbali and Benny about the memory card. During the interview, Tyrone calls his sister who answers in front of the cops, then says to Benny that her brother has put himself in a big mess, telling her that he has something the Cobra killers want and will make them pay for that.
Tyrone sets up the meeting with the Cobra killers, asking for two million point four rands in exchange for the memory card.

At the head office of the Hawks, Mbali, Benny, Vaughn and "Bones" Boshigo are told by the Giraffe that considering the implications of foreign and home secret services to recover the memory card, they can individually choose to quit the investigation if threatened by consequences of this possible international mess. No one quits.

Tyrone phones Bellville Station and warns the policemen that his sister, a witness who has been wounded in a Cape Flats shooting and hospitalised,  could be a target in the hospital where she is recovering.
Having been informed, Benny asks for at least four policemen to keep Nadia safe from the Cobra killer. Benny proposes to trace the cellphones used by Tyrone, not in the legal way but with Dave Fiedler, an independant who doesn't need subpoenas to do the job.

The Cobra group has been identified. There are not four but five of them who came under aliases such as Hector Malot or Sacha Guitry (another famous french author).
When Dave Fiedler delivers the first location of the cellphone used by Tyrone, the cops quatuor drive there to search it and finds that Tyrone has just dumped it in a rubbish bin.

Next Morning. Tyrone is waiting for photos of the cash money that Cobras have to send him before he sets time and place for the exchange. With Fiedler's help, Mbali and Griessel understand that Tyrone is waiting for a SMS, travelling on Metrorail and aiming not to be spotted by phone trackers.
Simultaneously, Tyrone and the cops at Fiedler's house see the photos sent by SMS by the Cobra killer on which the ransom is shown on a table, then in a rucksack and finally a huge man, frightening enough to Tyrone, with the rucksack on his back.

Tyrone wants to do the business on a train or at a station and sets up another meeting at Parow Station. Vaughn Cupido has parked his car and is on the train. Griessel and Mbali do the same but separate and happen to be in the same train as Tyrone but in the next carriage. Tyrone sticks the memory card under a seat with a chewing-gum: Mbali sees it and takes the card.

The exchange seems to be correct as Tyrone has grabbed the rucksack thrown on the platform and sent the SMS indicating where the memory card is hidden. Griessel has seen the killer throw the rucksack. He shoots down the Cobra killer, hitting him in the head. The Waterfront killer tries to get the memory card but Mbali arrests him.

Vaughn Cupido has seen Tyrone grab the rucksack loaded with money and follows him on the train.
He convinces him to hand over the pistol he has kept since the exchange with Nadia, then tells him to stop pickpocket job, keep the cash money and take care of his sister. Vaughn steps out of the carriage alone at Bellville Station.

At the DCPI head office, Cobra killer  Joaquim Curado doesn't say a word but Fiedler has traced every cellphone conversations and SMS and located the rented farm house where David Adair is kept.
The whole team, eight of them, split into four groups, and are ready to set him free, knowing that some Cobra killers are still on the loose, perhaps willing to defend their only tradecard for freedom.
But there is no resistance, nobody to keep Adair who is released.

He reveals them how the efficiency of the algorithm he created made him aware of frauds, corruptions and financial manipulations by an international conglomerat of banks. As they are driving back to the office, they are attacked and shot by a car beside them.

When Benny wakes up in a hospital room after sixteen days in a coma, he learns that Zola "Giraffe" Nyathi and David Adair were killed in the attack.

The next Benny Griessel book "Icarus", will be out in october 2015.

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