Book Review - Die Laughing

edited by Joanne Hichens (Tattoo Press) ISBN: 9780994680518

This collection of South African short stories is the latest from the Short. Sharp. Stories Awards, supported by the National Arts Festival. It reminded me of the early Roald Dahl short stories: uncomfortable enough to make you think, delicate enough to touch your emotions, and cleverly twisted to keep you on your toes. 

Comedy can be a delicate line to walk – what’s amusing to one person doesn’t always tickle the funny bone of the next. I didn’t connect with all of them, but I really enjoyed the sheer variety of authors and approaches to humour. Some are light and witty; others are extremely dark and satirical. There are some brilliant twists, and some excellent writing. 

If I had to pick a favourite, it would be This Is Not A Joke, Maureen by Gail Schimmel because she made me laugh at the worst possible moments, and then question why I had. 

Die Laughing is not all fun and games, but laughing into the darkness sometimes brings the light. Definitely worth a read. 


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Divine Justice

by Joanne Hichens (Mercury) ISBN: 9780987005809


Sometimes the crime genre focuses on the cops, other times on the criminals. Mostly, it follows the pure, almost ritualistic theme of restoring justice. Beating the bad guys, basically.


What is great about this South African crime gem is that Joanne Hichens gives us multiple viewpoints—from the sexy rookie investigator, Rae Valentine, her beau, Mullet Mendes and her unreliable partner, Vince, right down to the classic villain with a Freudian mother fixation and even a collective viewpoint into the police and a thuggish right wing gang. This gives us insight into all the characters and their motivations.


From the harrowing opening scene atop a burning Table Mountain, to the nail-biting finish where Rae must fight for her life, Divine Justice is a gritty and fast-paced thriller that pits impossibly real characters against an outrageously over-the-top plot. 


Cape Town-based writer Hichens is the author of the critically acclaimed Out to Score andStained; she also edits regular anthologies of South African crime stories. Divine Justice would make a great movie or TV series.


Anthony Ehlers


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