Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Lonely Place to Die: Wessel Ebersohn

A Lonely Place to Die by Wessel Ebersohn was the first book in a series featuring Yudel Gordon, a Jewish psychologist employed by the Department of Prisons in Pretoria, South Africa. Published in 1979, it provides a disturbing picture of the racial tensions in South Africa at that time.


Yudel loves his work, even though he is often at odds with his boss. Because he is interested in "the intricacies of the criminal mind," Yudel sometimes ends up exploring issues beyond the guidelines of his job, and actually seeking to solve the crime itself.

In this case, Freek Jordaan, a friend who works in Pretoria CID, asks Yudel to evaluate whether a prisoner is mentally fit to stand trial. Muskiet Lesoro, a black man, has been accused of poisoning the son of a wealthy man, a deputy minister of Pensions and Welfare. In Yudel's opinion, the prisoner is insane, not fit to be tried; Yudel is also sure that this prisoner could not have killed a man by poisoning him. He wants to find out more about the crime, so he persuades his friend to support his visit to the Middlespruit area to investigate further. That area has had several racially-motivated incidents recently, and Yudel is not exactly welcomed by the police there.

The content of the book is frightening; the ability of people to abuse others just because of race or religion is horrifying. The story is very well written, and the characters are realistically portrayed. Even secondary characters are fleshed out. Yudel is a fascinating man, brave and acting foolishly rash at times, but caring very much about people. He deals with everyone calmly and respectfully at all times.

Having written several novels that were anti-apartheid, Ebersohn "was repeatedly harassed by the police, his books were later banned, and for a time he was forced into hiding. " See more about this author at the Mystery Scene website.

Ebersohn has published seven novels that feature Yudel, written over a wide span of years:
1. A Lonely Place to Die (1979)
2. Divide the Night (1981)
3. Closed Circle (1990)
4. The October Killings (2011)
5. Those Who Love Night (2012)
6. The Top Prisoner of C-Max (2012)
7. A League of Geniuses (2016)
If you are looking for a mystery novel that deals with social issues, I highly recommend this book. Unfortunately it is not in print, so if you cannot locate a used copy, a library book may be the best bet.

 -----------------------------

Publisher:  Vintage Books, 1980. Orig. pub. 1979.
Length:     269 pages
Format:     Paperback
Series:      Yudel Gordon
Setting:    South Aftica
Genre:      Mystery
Source:    I purchased my copy. 



16 comments:

  1. Wow, never heard of this series or author. It seems really interesting. I'm always curious when I see massive gaps of years in an author's series of books. Tempting but I'll pass for now anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a very interesting book, Col. I picked up two of the later books at the book sale and wanted at least read this one first. Glad I did. I hope you get to try it one day. I do understand about passing for now, though. I have to stop getting more books...

      Delete
  2. It's so frustrating when a book really piques the interest, but it's out of print. Hopefully, it'll be reprinted at some point. I'm really glad you reviewed this, Tracy, as I think I'd like it very much. I'll have to see if my library has a copy of one of these mysteries.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Many of the books I read I have to get in used editions, Margot. To me it is fun to look for them. But I am glad many out of print novels are now becoming available in e-book format so that more people can enjoy them. Although it is definitely not the format I prefer to read.

      Delete
  3. I read and admired a couple of Ebersohn's early books when they were first published but assumed he'd stopped writing when I didn't see any for a few years - time to start looking! Another interesting South African writer roughly contemporary with Ebersohn is the late James McClure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do have the first three of McClure's Kramer and Zondi series but I have not read any of them. I do hope to do that sometime this year.

      Delete
  4. I found one of these books (The Top Prisoner of C-Max) on Amazon in Kindle. I immediately ordered it. Thanks for this nice review and thanks to Friday's Forgotten Books for leading me to intriguing books I'd not known of before.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Joe, thanks for finding out that some of the later books are available on Kindle. I don't think the earlier ones are, which is a shame. I agree with you on Friday's Forgotten Books, a wonderful resource for learning about books and authors.

      Delete
  5. I think I'd like this book, Tracy. It's stark, intense, full of suspense, and too close to reality. Wessel Ebersohn is a new author for me too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I first picked up the 4th book at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale a couple of years ago, Prashant, and the author was new to me too. Then when I found the 2nd one at the sale the next year, I decided to seek out this first one. You are right ... so close to the truth.

      Delete
  6. this sounds very good, thanks Tracy! - Keishon

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is good, Keishon, well-written and interesting story.

      Delete
  7. Interesting niche here - not someone I know or have read, and that list is intriguing with the big gap. But this is one I can probably resist, for various reasons, and I am very glad of that! Too many books already, but then you know that and sympathize...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do sympathize about too many books, Moira. Right now I am struggling with the desire to buy a couple of books when I have been overbuying for the last two or three months, and I have too many on the shelves already.

      Delete
  8. Had not heard of Ebersohn, but now I want to check him out. Thanks, Tracy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He is worth checking out, Mathew. An interesting person and a good writer.

      Delete