Water is traditionally and spiritually associated with purification, cleanliness, and good life irrespective of one’s beliefs or traditional values. However, before I could peruse through the pages of Three Bodies, the cover page, which depicts what looks like droplets of water falling on a black surface, made me curious.
What does this resemble?
Could it be that in this case water is a sign of life or is there more to this than what meets the eye?
In this crime fiction thriller simply titled Three Bodies, author Nechama Brodie unpacks how captain Reshma Patel and her partner Ian Jack connect the dots on how women’s lifeless bodies found in Hartbeespoort Dam, Vaal, and Jukskei rivers could possibly be linked to the increasing number of cash-in-transit heists in Gauteng.
This is one story that would still be fresh in the memories of many South Africans as the number of cash-in-transit heists dominated the public discourse not so long ago across all the provinces, which caused a national panic.
However, it is the way Brodie, a highly respected journalist, and an expert in violent crime studies narrates the story from the first chapter right through to the last that made me appreciate her descriptive style of storytelling. The manner in which she successfully manages to link the story idea with other social ills is just brilliant.
Crime, justice, femicide, traditional beliefs, superstitions, white privilege, apartheid injustices, unity, and racism are just a few themes that form part of Brodie’s story development throughout the chapters. However, one theme that truly resonated with me throughout the book was the issue of apartheid injustices. I find it hard to fathom how people who were drivers of mass killings during the apartheid days continue to live lavish lifestyles, while the oppressed continue to dwell at the bottom of the food chain. Brodie successfully paints this painful picture through villain Meneer Snyman and Zebulon September.
While Zebulon was struggling to make ends meet, the person who murdered his parents lived an expensive lifestyle without having to pay for his previous sins.
Brodie makes it simple for a reader to connect with characters. While the two lead characters are seekers of justice for the vulnerable, they both, however, force the reader to question and appreciate their different personalities. A lot of female police officers and generally working women will see themselves in the struggles that Reshma has to go through. Her credentials are constantly under the microscope in a male-dominated industry. She also has to deal with misogynistic behaviour all the time.
I, however, found myself questioning Ian’s unwillingness to confront apartheid legacies very disturbing. In many instances, he feels uncomfortable to talk about the legacy of apartheid, which is something many apartheid beneficiaries fail to address in the new dispensation.
While this is a sequel to Brodie’s previous novel (Knucklebone), she successfully delivers the story here without making a reader feeling that they should have read the previous book. This is the type of book that shows that if communities work together with the police, crime and corruption in South Africa can be defeated.
The only bummer is that the book seems to serve justice in the form of death, which will surely leave the reader questioning whether death and not arrest should be seen as justice against the transgressors.