Read of the Week

Agents of the State

Mike Nicol

Umuzi

Review: Brian Joss

Lawyer turned state security agent Vicki Kahn and her lover, surfer boy Bartolomeu “Fish” Pescado, a PI, get entangled in child trafficking, the botched killing of Abel Kolingba, a rebel colonel, who is now in a coma, from the Central Africa Republic (CAR), and the murder of his daughter, on the steps of St George’s Cathedral, in Cape Town, and an assassination attempt on the life of South African president-for-life, Zama, at his palace near Trekkersburg, KwaZulu-Natal.

The colonel’s wife, Cynthia, asks Pescado to investigate her husband’s shooting while Kahn, who still has a gambling addiction, has been ordered to Europe by her boss Henry Davidson to bring back Linda Nchaba, a model, with links to the president’s son, also Zama, and she knows quite a bit about the child trafficking operation.

The president, who has his greedy fingers in a lot of unsavoury pies, orders Zama to restore production at a mine in the CAR which has fallen into rebel hands.

Pescado and Kahn first featured in Of Cops and Robbers (reviewed) along with the mysterious Mart “Chief” Velaze whose handler is The “go with the ancestors” Voice.

Kahn cuts all contact with Fish while she’s overseas, much to his frustration.

She meets veteran spymaster, Detlef Schroeder in Berlin, where she learns more about her struggle icon aunt, Amina, and her secret.

Before Amina was assassinated on the Paris Metro, she discovered that a *Dr Gold stole millions from taxpayers and transferred it and gold bullion to Switzerland and shared it with the ANC’s top men.

Amina was killed because she didn’t approve and believed the money could have been used to build houses, hospitals and schools in the new South Africa.

Agents of the State has more twists and turns than the Cobra at Ratanga Junction and many of the characters are just as venomous as the snake. Agents, double agents, struggle comrades, backstabbing, betrayal, corruption, murder and more are par for the course in this page-turner. As with Nicol’s other crime thrillers, music is a recurring theme and there are references to rocker Melissa Etheridge (Come to Me); Petula Clark and South African Wendy Oldfield (Acid Rain), to name some.

Nicol writes in his trademark staccato style with flashes of dark humour. The story comes straight out of today’s headlines and ends in an explosive climax. It will grip you from page 1. In Agents of the State, Nicol who lives in Fish Hoek, shows why he is one of the best thriller writers around, and not only in South Africa.

Rumour has it that Dr Gold (Nico Diederichs), the then finance minister in the apartheid government, was linked to the murders of National Party politician Robert Smit, who was tipped to be the next finance minister, and his wife Jean-Cora, about 40 years ago in their Springs, Gauteng home. The words RAU TEM were spray-painted on the walls and until now the murders remain unsolved.