South Africa's colonial past and post-apartheid present collide in Andre Brink's enthralling if deeply disturbing novel. His protagonist is Flip Lochner, a middle-aged crime correspondant for a Cape Town newspaper whose frustrated ambition, failed marriage and unhappy relationship with his children has left him in a state of disillusionment. A drunken encounter with a university student from the isolated mountain settlement of Devil's Valley prompts Flip to set out on a trek to this mysterious community, but on his arrival, he discovers that the Valley settlement is a hotbed of religous fanaticism, casual violence and in-breeding. However, Flip's involvement with the enigmatic, but troubled Emma leads him to delve deep into the affairs of the valley inhabitants-with deadly consequences! Brink marries elements of the thriller to a penetrating analysis of a community about to implode through a combination of drought, superstiton, isolation and fear of the unknown. As Flip tries to write the history of Devil's Valley, his efforts are undermined by each story contradicting what has gone before. This poses a challenge to the reader in that we are forced to decide who we trust and if honesty can ever really come into play when a distrustful group of people, stuck in a timewarp, come face to face with an outsider like Flip who comes from a different world entirely. This is not always a pleasant read, but it is one of the most stimulating novels I have read in a long time and it is nearly as good as Brink's best-known novel, 'A Dry White Season'.
Throughout "Devils Valley" the bleak,wastes of the Little Karoo and the Swartberg mountains in the Cape Province,create a sinister and eery air of desolation and emptiness.
Essentially concerned with Afrikaner traditions and history, the novel examines an isolated Boer community. Flip is drawn to Devils Valley by a death in Cape Town, he links this back to the small settlement where things become odder and odder.
Brink never lapses into fantasy but there is a dreamlike quality to passages which intermingle with savage language,violence and sexual escapades.
Novels like this are rarely attempted by thriller writers and I loathe to call this a thriller but it has all the best qualities of that genre with real insight and intelligent prose.