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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Namaqualand Book of the Dead - Nerine Dorman

How far will you travel to lay your dead to rest?

Struggling to come to terms with her boyfriend Aidan’s death, Chloë is ill prepared to deal with the violent murder of his best friend. When tantalizing evidence suggests there is more to Aidan’s apparent death than meets the eye, Chloë will not let her lack of material resources keep her from uncovering the truth, even if the truth proves far more dangerous and with a far more sinister nature than she bargained for.

The evening would have petered off in this warm glow if the wail of sirens hadn’t pierced the air outside.

The guys stiffened, muttered and shared dark looks. Hailing from a big city, both Gladys and I were inured to the commotion.

Piet shifted his bulk. “I’d better go take a look.”

“I’ll come with,” said Gerhard.

This left only me, Gladys, Frederik and an ancient fellow by the name of Jaap. It was as if the air had grown solid. The men faced the screen but kept glancing at the door.

The grumble of a diesel engine coughing into life spoke of our departing companions’ urgent desire to leave.

“What’s that all about?” I asked, still unconcerned. After all, what could possibly happen all the way out here that was any worse than in the city?

Frederik gave a deep sigh, taking a long gulp from his Castle. “You tell ’em, Jaap. I don’t have the taste for this.”

Jaap blinked, looking first at Gladys then me. “We have a murderer in Lambert’s Bay. We’ve had six killed in as many months.”

Gladys let out a small gasp. “And the cops?”

Jaap spat, pulling a face. “They say it’s some wild animal, maybe a leopard come down from the mountains, but there are no claw marks and the wounds have allegedly become neater with each kill. But I tell you, no leopard would tear out a man’s throat like he was no better than... And in all my years on the West Coast, no leopard has ever attacked a human. Some of the farmers living out here have never even so much as seen hide nor hair of the cats. To have this happen now...” Jaap shook himself as if to rid himself of a particularly bad thought.

A vision of Phil with his throat slit when they found him exploded in my vision. I didn’t want to go there and of course I hadn’t seen this, but Belinda had told me enough, and I shivered. And there was a world of difference between having one’s throat slit compared to having it torn out. Yet...

The fog of my pleasant alcoholic haze vanished, the words escaping from my lips before I had an opportunity to consider them. “Have there been any strangers moving to Lambert’s Bay? A man. Young. About my age?”

Everyone turned to look at me as if I’d sprouted horns or something. Then I realized my mistake. Good going. Now I had implicated Aidan without first finding him.

Gladys placed her hand on my shoulder as if to suggest she was here to take care of me. Under any other circumstance, I would have shrugged the gesture off, but what I’d just blurted struck me dumb with my stupidity and my face grew warm.

“Forgive Chloe. She’s had a long day. She’s obviously worried about her friend.” Gladys said that as if to suggest I was worried Aidan had been one of the victims, which I was, now that she’d tried to shift the conversation.

The men shared an unreadable look. Frederik licked his lips. “No. No strangers we’re aware of. Four fishermen have washed up. Then old Mrs. Kemp, but no one liked the old witch anyway, and then mad Benny, who was walking around at odd hours.”

“In other words, no one who’d be really missed.” Gladys’s disapproval of Frederik’s choice of words was evident.

Frederik continued without giving pause to my friend’s comment. “Come to think of it, no.”

“Except their families!” I said.

Gladys’s fingers tightened on my shoulder.


  1. Oh, Nice! Has a wonderful eerie sense of dread packed in there. Thanks, David, for sharing. And, thanks, Nerine, for creating the story!

  2. My pleasure, Jadette.
    Thank you so much for dropping by.