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on 21 June 2013
South African crime fiction has enjoyed a long-overdue boost of late, with Roger Smith and Lauren Beukes' eye catching, but very different novels, throwing the spotlight on the country. The region has huge potential for crime writers, grinding poverty sitting next to pockets of carefully protected wealth, with corruption rife and violence commonplace. Out of this seething melting pot debut author MD Villiers, a former Johannesburg native, has crafted a dark, complex and often moving novel.

City of Blood opens with the seemingly motiveless stabbing of an elderly mango seller. The market crowd looks on unmoved, the Nigerian killer knows he doesn't need to run, but nineteen year old orphan Siphiwe can't bear to remain uninvolved. He goes to comfort the woman and that simple act of kindness kicks off a chain of events which puts him at the heart of a bitter and bloody turf war.

Gangster McCarthy Letswe has returned to Johannesburg after a forced exile and he wants his business back from the Nigerians who have muscled in during his absence. Their leader, the white suited chameleon Abuju, seems untouchable, surrounded by thugs, protected by corrupt police, but everyone has a weakness and Letswe is determined to find Abuju's soft spot.

Siphiwe is an unwilling player in this web of intrigue; known to Letswe via a criminal cousin, being watched and threatened by the Nigerian who attacked the mango seller, and with the police pressurising him to speak up and help them catch the man. Siphiwe has his own demons too, guilt from the death of his brother when they were boys and a sense of responsibility towards the people at the shelter who took him in, but he's smart, with instincts honed from living on the streets, and with so much at stake he will need every ounce of guile he has to survive.

City of Blood is part crime novel, part coming of age story, and MD Villiers blends the elements very successfully, making it seem inevitable, even natural, that a decent young man like Siphiwe would become entangled with the violent power struggles of gangsters. She writes with a clear, confident voice and the kind of forceful pacing which makes you whip through the pages. It is a striking debut from a writer who promises to become a major talent and I'm looking forward to what she produces next.
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on 9 June 2013
This is a terrific story set in Johannesburg, `City of Gold', where crime-lords of various ethnicities try to get rich any way they can (getting some cash for the weekend involves dynamiting the ATM). Be warned though - the title is not City of Blood for nothing. People are lobbed off the top of buildings, thrown to the dogs, or routinely tortured - and execution by simple bullet is deemed a mercy killing. Amidst the mayhem Siphiwe is the welcome moral centre and a character you feel privileged to spend time with. MD Villiers needs to get busy with a follow-up to this superb book though, as there is the tantalising suggestion of unfinished business with a certain crime-lady in the making ...
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on 7 June 2013
Once I started reading I simply could not put this book down - the writing style is so engaging and really takes you into the heart of the story seeing, smelling, experiencing everything with the characters as if you are there yourself. It paints a very good picture of the turf wars in Johannesburg and Siphiwe is a truly remarkable character that is interesting to follow throughout the story.
I cannot wait for this authors next book, this book really sets MD Villiers up for a very successful writing career!
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on 27 May 2013
Like a punch in the stomach. Put it down? Don't even think about it. Impossible. M.D. Villiers gives us a ride through the toughest parts of Johannesburg on a fast freight train. Told mainly through the eyes of Siphiwe, a 19-year old orphan, City of Blood is a brilliant story of what it takes to survive when two opposing crime lords are gunning for you, plus maybe the police as well. With this terrific book, Villiers has to be the runaway favorite to win all of the Awards for the 2013 Best Mystery of the Year!
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on 18 May 2013
What an amazing book. When I haven't been reading it over the last few days I have been thinking about it. Siphiwe is the most engaging character I have come across for a long time! I would recommend this book to anyone.
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on 26 January 2015
A South African crime novel narrated from a poor black point of view is a novelty. City of Blood feels like a genuine reflection of inner city Johannesburg, far from the shining towers and gated communities of the Northern suburbs.
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on 17 May 2013
A must read giving insight into South Africa. MD Villiers has an engaging style, true-life descriptions of modern day Johannesburg. Could not put the book down. Can't wait for the next one!
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on 24 May 2013
One of the best thrillers this year. Her first book yet MD Villiers brings all the skills of an accomplished novelist to this rich novel about the chaos that is modern Johannesberg. Unforgettable characters in a terrifying story that is all too believable.
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on 26 August 2015
I loved this book. I don't like meandering 'literary' fiction and prefer stories with a dynamic narrative drive whilst also being intelligent and exploring aspects of the world we live in. This book did all that. Beautifully crafted, fast paced but full of description making Jo'berg so real and vivid. The story elements combine extremely well leading to a satisfying conclusion (it's amazing how many books don't do that). This book has stayed with me long after reading. It has heart as well as telling a tightly constructed crime story. It is full of hope and it explores our humanity well. Buy it!
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on 5 April 2014
Good crime book about South Africa.Believable characters and situations.Good build up of tension.Quite an eye opener about south africa for its indigenous population and an explaination of its violent reputation.
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