A Sangoma’s Story

by Melanie Reeder (Penguin) ISBN: 9780143026167

 

‘My body has two lives,’ says traditional healer, Elliot Ndlovu, ‘the spiritual as well as the physical.’

 

Reeder, a well-known magazine writer, relates the story of this charismatic sangoma in a clear, readable style that avoids the academic approach and draws the reader into another world – a world of storm chasing and magical serpents and bewitched bones.

 

Ndlovu found his calling as a young man, woken by an apparition sent by his ancestors. From that moment, he followed a path of suffering and knowledge to embrace his cultural heritage, to be a healer of both minds and bodies.

 

Surprisingly, his path also led to meeting Queen Elizabeth and a brush with Hollywood. In fact, he is a bit of a celebrity, dividing his time between Thendela village in rural KwaZulu-Natal and the luxurious Fordoun Hotel and Spa in the midlands, where he consults.

 

Ndlovu’s message is essentially to protect our natural resources and to practice Ubuntu in all aspects of life: from relationships to religion.  A Sangoma’s Story captures the essence of both this fascinating man and Zulu culture with poignancy and insight.

 

Anthony Ehlers

3/5

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The Survivor

by Sean Slater (Simon & Schuster) ISBN: 978 0 85720 038 9

 

With the recent Oslo massacre still a fresh scar in our minds, this gunfire-fast novel could not be more topical. 

 

On his first day back from leave, Detective Jacob Striker encounters three shooters wearing hockey masks on a killing spree at his daughter’s high school. We’re not only reminded of the Norway attacks, but the ghosts of Columbine and South Africa’s own samurai sword killing schoolboy Morne Harmse.

 

In a race against time, Striker tries to get to investigate the killings, even though he comes up short on motives and suspects. The story takes the reader from the school halls to far darker and dangerous places.

 

If you’re a fan of police procedurals with added thrills, The Survivor won’t disappoint.

 

Sean Slater is the pseudonym for a Canadian cop who works the skids in Vancouver and this gives his first novel a raw authenticity. Jacob Striker promises to be a new protagonist to watch in an exciting new series. Only his partner, Felicia Santos, is a bit difficult to identify with as a reader.

 

Anthony Ehlers

4/5

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Bloodline

by Lynda la Plante (Simon & Schuster) ISBN: 978 0857 201812

 

Inspector Anna Travis, still haunted by the murder of her fiancé, takes on an investigation that, on the surface, looks like a missing person’s case.  Alan Rawlins was a loving son and boyfriend. He wouldn’t just leave his life behind without a trace, would he?  His elderly father suspects foul play; that his girlfriend has something to do with his sudden disappearance.

 

When evidence of blood is found in Alan’s flat, it’s clear this is a murder investigation – and the case is blown wide open for Anna. As the story unravels, it becomes clear that Alan’s life was far from perfect. Family secrets, clandestine lovers, this victim was living the classic double life.

 

Not only does Anna have to sift through a web of subtle, seemingly irrelevant clues and forensic evidence, she has her superior, James Langdon, second-guessing her every move. Langdon doesn’t believe she’s worked through her own recent bereavement and it could be affecting her judgement.

 

La Plante, creator of a string of successful novels and television dramas, writes with a compelling sense of immediacy. What she lacks in style, she makes up for in a cracking good story and a brutally fast pace. It’s crime entertainment at its best – like a really good episode of Law &Order.

 

Anthony Ehlers

4/5

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Passion

by Lauren Kate (Doubleday) ISBN 978 03856 1808 3

 

Los Angeles-based author Lauren Kate is the internationally bestselling creator of the wildly popular Fallen series.

 

Passion is the third in the quartet of romantic paranormal novels aimed at young adults.

 

Ethereally dark and exquisitely beautiful Luce travels back through time and history to test her relationship with the tormented blond fallen angel Daniel. She wants to know if he really loves her – or if he is simply caught up in the curse neither of them seems able to break. Daniel is forced bring her back from the dangerous shadows of the past to face the risks of the present.

 

Passion not only explores the extremes young lovers will face to be together, but also neatly sets the stage for the final book.

 

The story is told in a crisp, evocative style, although some of the dialogue is less than elegant. While the time travel plot line can be annoying at times, it does feed the story and give us a background to the main characters.

 

Recommended for anyone who is looking for a paranormal fix after Twilight and a must for those who enjoyed the first two books Lauren Kate’s series.

 

Anthony Ehlers

3/5

 

~~~

 

Luce Price is desperate to break the curse that keeps her from her one true love, Daniel.

 

Luce with the apparent guidance of a gargoyle must go back through the centuries and revisit her various reincarnations that each hold a different clue to her fate.

 

Meanwhile Daniel and other fallen angels are in hot pursuit of Luce through the ages to stop her before she makes a choice that alters their history.

 

Passion is the sequel to Lauren Kate’s novel, Fallen. The reader can pick up on the essence of the first book and ease into the romantic plot of the second even if they have not had a chance to read the first.

 

The story is focused on the intense connection between the two main characters Luce and Daniel and Lauren does well to relay this concentrated emotion to the reader. The chapters are divided into centuries and moves rather swiftly.

 

To enjoy the culmination of the story one will need to read the third book, Torment.

 

Liz Breet

3/5

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Midwinter of the Spirit

by Phil Rickman (Corvus) ISBN: 9780857890108


Midwinter of the Spirit, the second in the Merrily Watkins series, starts with a chill, a small shiver of apprehension. A woman stands in an unlit back room of an old chapel looking for the imprint of a ghost in a cracked mirror. 

 

That woman is Merrily Watkins, a small, pretty single mother of a teenager daughter and a sensitive, sympathetic preacher. If she’s not someone you would ever picture as an exorcist, well, nor does she.

 

However, the Bishop has chosen her to study at a Christian deliverance group in the English Midlands. No surprise – she’s the only woman in the group and faces resistance from the start of her new calling.

 

Merrily will need this crash course in fighting unseen evil as soon as the bodies show up in this intriguingly spooky novel.  At more than 500 pages, Midwinter of the Spirit takes its time to unfurl the full horror of its mysteries, but from the first line, you understand you are in the hands of a master storyteller.  

 

Every character is drawn with the clearest authenticity. Every setting is imbued with cold gothic starkness, in turns strangely beautiful and subtly unsettling. 

 

It’s not a book to read late at night – the evil is almost palpable on every page, the menace as close as breath to the nape of your neck. A superb supernatural thriller.

 

Anthony Ehlers

5/5

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