Read of the Week

An Eye for a Tooth

Murray Hamilton

Porcupine Press

Review: Brian Joss

Jack Grant is a journalist who stirred up controversy before he ever set foot in a newspaper office.

His blog and a “scathing piece” on the failures of the South African justice system to adequately prosecute clearly guilty offenders, especially rapists and child molesters, caused such an outcry and accusations of promoting hatred against black South Africans that he had to shut down his website.

His writing drew the attention of Siyabonga Mabena who is dying in a Sunningdale Hospital bed and supports Grant’s view.

Mabena has a story to tell and much like Scheherezade he is going to spin it out and urges Grant not to do anything before he has heard the last chapter in a litany of horrific and gruesome crimes – from murder to child rape, adultery, a gun called “Ben” – and revenge. The two protagonists in the stories are Luke and Jabu.

It won’t be a spoiler to say that Mabena dies before he could relate the last story. But he does leave Grant a letter to be delivered posthumously, which includes the penultimate chapter and a message.

It is written on a yellowing piece of paper found in a bag Grant inherits on Mabena’s death, as well as an item wrapped in a tatty old T-shirt, and a key that unlocks the secrets.

The climax plays out at Cafe Caprice on the Camps Bay beachfront when Grant decides to finish what Jabu and Luke started when their actions had unintended consequences. The climax is not satisfying and does not gel with the epilogue.

An Eye for a Tooth is not easy reading. The theme is unusual and despite its shortcomings it will keep you reading until the end.