The Blood of an Englishman is James McClure’s sixth novel in the Kramer and Zondi series of South-African police procedurals. The action is sparked off by the brutal murder of a black South African antique dealer, whose perpetrator proves hard if not impossible to find for Kramer and Zondi despite being of giant size. After six days of a fruitless search for clues, another, apparently unrelated crime will end up offering the necessary lead to unravel both cases. During a routine check at the garage, Mrs Digby-Smith finds her brother’s tied-up, decomposing body in the trunk of her car, a cruel tomb for the ex-RAF hero Edward Hookman. Kramer and Zondi penetrate into Trekkersburg’s underworld to find themselves confronted with the hidden tensions between South Africa’s Afrikaner and British population. This Kramer and Zondi case foremost centres on the ambiguities and contrasts within South Africa’s white dominant class under Apartheid.
In the early 1970s, James McClure developed one of the most successful detective partnerships in South African crime fiction in a series which features 8 novels unveiling to national and international readership the harsh realities of Apartheid—the institutionalised social, political, economic and geographical segregation of ethnic groups according to artificial racial definition. The personal and professional dynamics between the Afrikaner Lieutenant Tromp Kramer and the Zulu detective sergeant Mickey Zondi play out in the limits of the socially admissible under Apartheid, but they are, as investigation after investigation proves, the key to the successful resolution of a wide range of murder cases. As Kramer states in The Caterpillar Cop, “Our job requires us not to make any assumptions based on class, color or religious belief” (1972: 22), thus confirming that, though self-critical, theirs is definitely a male world. The dry humour that permeates their disentangling of all sorts of criminal plots and ploys provides the necessary distance for the reader to recognise the structural ambiguities in McClure’s description of Apartheid, and to wonder to what extent it confirms or subverts racism.