The first of Deon Meyer´s crime novels to be translated from Afrikaans into English, is set in post-apartheid Cape Town. Dead Before Dying (1999) places us in an uncomfortable interrogation room with police captain Mat Joubert, a man who can’t escape his tragic past. It’s been a little over two years since Joubert’s wife (an officer herself) was killed in the line of duty. Joubert has been in an abusive relationship with booze, cigarettes, overeating and self-loathing. His new commanding officer is about to change all that. The ever-intimidating Bart de Wit wants his Murder and Robbery detectives fit, both physically and mentally. When diets and mental health regimens are recommended, many of Joubert’s comrades begin to fall by the wayside. But a new series of crimes has the overweight and insecure Joubert beginning to feel like his old persona again. Men, seemingly unknown to one another, are being murdered with a century-old German handgun. The killer’s even using the original and very powerful bullets. Joubert distills his rusty investigative skills with weekly visits to his new therapist while dodging advances from his neighbor’s lusty teenage daughter. He’s also caught up in a curious string of bank robberies orchestrated by an overly polite chameleon whose disguises change with each branch. As the murder list and bank holdups increase – de Wit and the over-eager media threatening his every move – the slowly resurrecting cop realizes “you can take Joubert out of the dark but you can’t take the dark out of Joubert.” A long-buried secret about his dead wife is about to surface, and the outcome may be lethal. Though Meyer’s tales are continents away, crime, race and dirty politics are still the same. The prose crackles with an original intensity that never stalls from the first murder to the unexpected ending. Dead Before Dying is an excellent character-driven fable of fractured lives and the inner strength that gives one the ability to either climb out of the abyss or to become one with the darkness (adapted from JC Patterson, The Madison County Herald).