This is the third book in Hardistry’s series of novels following the trials and tribulations of his character, Claymore Straker. It’s in effect a prequel to the previous two books, giving insight into Straker’s back story and how he came to be the man he is today. Despite that, it can be read as a standalone if one hasn’t read the previous two, though I would recommend reading them in order, if only because they are all exceptionally good books.
Reconciliation for The Dead sees Straker return to his native South Africa to give evidence to the post-Apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as indeed he promised he would at the end of Book 2, The Evolution of Fear. Most of Reconciliation of The Dead is set in the past, when Starker was a paratrooper in the Apartheid-era South African army, fighting in Angola in support of UNITA and against SWAPO. Interspersed between chapters are excerpts of Straker’s evidence in the present day to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It’s an effective format and the excerpts of evidence put the main narrative in context and help drive the story on.
At the beginning of the story Straker is very much the loyal soldier. He’s not a dyed-in-the-wool, racist, Apartheid ideologue, rather he’s as many white South African’s must have been: loyal to his homeland, accepting of the propaganda sold by the state that South Africa was besieged on all fronts by communism, unthinkingly accepting of the status quo that divided the white population from the black majority. As events proceed however, and he is exposed to the reality of the war in Angola, he begins to question all he has been led to believe. This process of disenchantment proceeds with pace when he and his friend and comrade-in-arms, Eban, stumble upon a dark conspiracy. I won’t give away spoilers, but it is enough to say that they become witness to some of the darkest deeds the Apartheid regime was party to.
I had the honour of meeting the author at the book launch for Reconciliation for The Dead and he mentioned that for research for the novel he had spent months reading the transcripts of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As a former current affairs journalist, I was aware of some of the story he based this novel on, but I was stunned by the lengths the Apartheid regime went to, something which this novel effectively demonstrates.
The thing I love about Paul Hardistry’s work is that each book is both a page-turning and cracking read and deeply educational. His first novel, The Abrupt Physics of Dying, had much to say about resource depletion in the Yemen; his second, The Evolution of Fear, spoke of the destruction of natural habitats and the dark side of the tourist industry, while this latest outing, Reconciliation for The Dead, is a powerful tale that shines a light on the ugliness that was Apartheid and racial politics. As with the previous two books, Hardistry’s thorough research, coupled with a sense of outrage at the wrongs of the world, shines through the narrative and he’s written an extremely accomplished novel. But also like the previous novels, Reconciliation for The Dead is not a preachy rant. In fact, that’s why it’s so effective. Rather, it’s a thrilling, edge of the seat ride, the reader in the company of Claymore Straker, truly a thinking man’s Jason Bourne and in my view one of the best characters to populate thriller fiction. The two aspects – thriller and social/moral heart – complement each other effectively and elevate Hardistry’s work above many of his rivals. As with the previous two books, Reconciliation for The Dead truly is an exceptional read and I can’t recommend it enough. A definite favourite book of mine for 2017.
5 out of 5 stars