Wednesday, August 10, 2016
The Monster's Daughter by Michelle Pretorius
In 1901 during the Boer War, a doctor at a British war camp in South Africa experiments on Boer prisoners, hoping to create a master race. He creates many sad births of children who die soon after, most horribly deformed. But he does create two children who survive. Tessa and Ben both manage to escape the camp by various means. Tessa is raised by a loving family while Ben survives a harsh orphanage. They meet in school and become friends.
Fast forward to 1910. Alet Berg is a young police officer, sent to a remote village after her shining debut ends in disgrace. Anyone else would have been fired but she is the daughter of one of the most powerful police officers in the country and is given a chance to redeem herself. The small village doesn't suit Alet at all, who longs for action. Instead she is in a place where an occasional car wreck or lost cattle makes up the daily routine.
Then there is a murder. An elderly woman, Theresa, has been found killed and burned. Alet is excited to try to solve the case but nothing makes sense. She can't find out anything about Theresa's background, at least nothing that makes sense. Alet is friends with Theresa's daughter, Tillie, but even Tillie knows almost nothing about her mother. As Alet doggedly digs into the past, she uncovers evidence of a serial killer who seems to have been killing for decades; a case her father never managed to solve. Is there a connection between the serial killer and what has happened to Theresa? Could Theresa be someone else entirely, connected to Tessa?
Michelle Pretorius's debut novel is making waves and it should. It is an interesting mix of South African politics, police procedural and science fiction. It highlights the fact that whenever there is a power differential, those on the side with power will do anything to try to retain it, but that over time, power will shift and those who performed systematic crimes will be brought to justice. It is a complex story, told through the filter of racism and politics, that will enthrall the reader and that highlights Pretorius's debut as an exciting new author. This book is recommended for readers of mysteries as well as those of historical fiction.