Read of the Week


Mike Nicol

Penguin Random House

Review: Karen Watkins

Lovers of thrillers are in for a good read as they dive into the pages of this complex mystery.

Sleeper is the third in the series featuring secret agent Vicki Kahn of Wembley Square who was shot in the last book, Agents of State.

Also back is her good looking, private investigator lover and surfer dude Bartolomeu “Fish” Pescado of Muizenberg (named for Cafe Pescado in Simon’s Town).

The story begins at Miller’s Point as Fish opens the throttle and takes his next door neighbour, Flip Nel into the middle of the False Bay. While they are fishing, Nel commits suicide by tying himself to the anchor rope and diving overboard from the Maryjane, the aptly named as Fish deals in marijuana.

Some of his clients are top academics, including Professor Summers of Plumstead who, in exchange for a bankie, will help Fish with research, the more cryptic the better. Nel leaves a message on his old Nokia, which directs Fish to “see under S, Caitlyn Suarez, and look for the Suarez file. It’s in my kitchen.” But everyone else is looking for that file and Suarez, too, who has gone missing.

Others in the cast of characters are Mart “Chief” Velaze who was Kahn’s handler, although she has quit the Agency, better known as the Aviary, and is now working as a lawyer with an NGO involved in settling land claims.

Suarez, who has been accused of murdering her lover, energy minister, Viktor Kweza, has hired Fish to find his killer.

Meanwhile, a top nuclear scientist, Dr Robert Wainwright of Rosebank, has been coerced into stealing a brick of HEU, highly enriched uranium, which is used to make “dirty” bombs. The theft has been engineered by the director general of the energy department, Dr Ato Molapo who is the president’s son-in-law and he has promised the Iranians, Muhammed Ahmadi and Mohammed Hashim, that he will deliver the goods.

Molapo convinces Wainwright that there’s a green light on the project and that it comes from the highest level. Wainwright smells a rat and alerts the secret service.

Meanwhile, Kahn , who has a gambling addiction, is drawn back to the Aviary for one last job… to watch over Wainwright. This is when the story intensifies as the players head north across wheatfields on the black ribbon of the N7 to end up at a desolate farmhouse in the Cederberg. Sound complicated? It is. A list of characters and their part in the story would be useful.Sleeper is as South African as a braai and features recognisable landmarks such as Dunkley Square, Signal Hill and Chapman’s Peak.

Nicol starts each chapter giving the location where the story is taking place, from Ermington Road in Muizenberg and a cell at Caledon Square police station to Stonehurst Mountain Mansion and Vergenoegd Farm in the Cape Winelands. Nicol, who lives in Glencairn Heights, started out writing poetry before turning to journalism. Author of 21 books, published locally and internationally, some translated into different languages, also runs creative writing courses. He is a master storyteller and will keep you in suspense as he weaves the story through the clandestine world of politics.