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The Artful Egg
Cover of The Artful Egg
The Artful Egg
The Kramer And Zondi Mysteries, Book 7
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Two detectives hunt for a woman's killer in apartheid-era South Africa: "The pace is fast, the solution ingenious" (The New York Times Book Review).

Named one of the 100 Best Crime Novels of the 20th Century by The Times (London)

Naomi Stride was a wealthy woman, and her death has left several people richer—none more so than her twenty-six-year-old son, Theo, with whom she long had bitter differences over money. She was also a controversial woman, a writer whose novels had been banned in South Africa. But was it for money, politics, or some other unknown reason that she was killed? And why was her naked corpse strewn with flowers and herbs?

These are the questions South African Lt. Tromp Kramer and his Zulu partner, Mickey Zondi, must answer. But the task becomes much more difficult when Kramer is unexpectedly taken off the case. Ordered by his superiors to discreetly "wrap up" a fatal accident that could be embarrassing for the South African police, he is plunged into a second investigation—and he and Zondi find themselves moving inexorably toward a haunting and horrifying climax.

Gold Dagger Award winner James McClure is "a distinguished crime novelist who has created in his Afrikaner Tromp Kramer and Bantu Sergeant Zondi two detectives who are as far from stereotypes as any in the genre" (P. D. James, bestselling author of Death Comes to Pemberly).

Two detectives hunt for a woman's killer in apartheid-era South Africa: "The pace is fast, the solution ingenious" (The New York Times Book Review).

Named one of the 100 Best Crime Novels of the 20th Century by The Times (London)

Naomi Stride was a wealthy woman, and her death has left several people richer—none more so than her twenty-six-year-old son, Theo, with whom she long had bitter differences over money. She was also a controversial woman, a writer whose novels had been banned in South Africa. But was it for money, politics, or some other unknown reason that she was killed? And why was her naked corpse strewn with flowers and herbs?

These are the questions South African Lt. Tromp Kramer and his Zulu partner, Mickey Zondi, must answer. But the task becomes much more difficult when Kramer is unexpectedly taken off the case. Ordered by his superiors to discreetly "wrap up" a fatal accident that could be embarrassing for the South African police, he is plunged into a second investigation—and he and Zondi find themselves moving inexorably toward a haunting and horrifying climax.

Gold Dagger Award winner James McClure is "a distinguished crime novelist who has created in his Afrikaner Tromp Kramer and Bantu Sergeant Zondi two detectives who are as far from stereotypes as any in the genre" (P. D. James, bestselling author of Death Comes to Pemberly).

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Excerpts-
  • Chapter 1

    A hen is an egg's way of making another egg.
    This was the thought uppermost in the mind of Ramjut Pillay, Asiatic Postman 2nd Class, at the start of the horrific Tuesday morning that altered the course of his life. He tried to have an uppermost thought every morning, for fear of being lulled into intellectual stagnation by the sort of reading his work required of him:

    Mrs. WM Truscott
    4 Jan Smuts Close,
    Morningside,
    Trekkersburg,
    Natal,
    South Africa


    Not that most envelopes, being mailed locally, had anything like as much on them, making this example--an air letter from Cincinnati--the workaday equivalent of War and Peace.
    Not that there was ever any real need to read further than the first couple of lines anyway, because nothing reached his sorting-frame that hadn't already been set aside for Morningside, but he prided himself on being conscientious.
    Ramjut Pillay slipped Mrs. Truscott's air letter through the slot in her front door, sidestepped her dachshund with nimble disdain, and continued on his way. There was nothing today for the Van der Plank family at number 6, and only a few bills and a holiday postcard for the Trenchards at number 8.
    He no longer perused postcards; the sheer inanity of their scribbled messages was more than his rather remarkable mind could bear.
    "So let us ponder more profoundly and afresh," he murmured, as he opened the gate to 8 Jan Smuts Close, "the devilish cunning shown by the aforesaid egg, and its consequent effect upon the wretched fowl in question. . . ."
    Ramjut Pillay invariably used the plural form when addressing himself, being exceedingly conscious of the fact that there was a lot more to him than met the eye--which, admittedly, wasn't much.
    Bespectacled, standing five-two-and-a-quarter, slightly bow-legged and as spare as a sparrow's drumstick, he "reliably informed" his pen pals the world over that he was "wholly Gandhi-esque" in appearance, "save for a head of
    truly healthy hair." What he didn't tell his pen pals was that people frequently looked right through him, just as though he wasn't there, and that, as a child, his mother had kept losing him on buses, in shops, and at the Hindu temple down Harber Road.
    Once, when he was about twelve years old, his father and mother, after a frantic search of the bottom end of town, had found him seated in the midst of the temple elders, under a sacred fig-tree. "Ramjut," his mother had cried out, "don't you know how worried your father and I have been? Just what are you up to, child, with these wise old men?" To which he had replied: "Eating figs."
    The front door to 8 Jan Smuts Close opened before he could
    slip the mail through its letter-slot.
    "I wondered if--" began blowsy Mrs. Trenchard, her green eyes darting to the mail in his right hand.
    He knew what she was after. All last week it'd been the same, the constant hope against hope that her son had written to her from army camp. "You keep hearing these stories," she had explained to him, "that they're no sooner given their boots than they're sent to fight in the bush in Namibia." Indeed, her motherly anguish would once again have been pitiful to behold, were Ramjut Pillay paying the slightest attention to it.
    Instead, he was slyly stealing a look at seventeen-year-old Suzie Trenchard--he'd delivered her recent birthday cards in their unsealed envelopes--who was languidly descending the staircase, engrossed in a glossy magazine. The white girl's legs were bare all the way up to the frilly-edged panties she wore beneath a shortie nightie. What legs! Broad thighs, smooth knees, calves with a truly...

About the Author-
  • James McClure (1939-2006) was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he worked as a photographer and then a teacher before becoming a crime reporter. He published eight wildly successful books in the Kramer and Zondi series during his lifetime and was the recipient of the CWA Silver and Gold Daggers.

Reviews-
  • The New York Times Book Review "The pace is fast, the solution ingenious. Above all, however, is the author's extraordinary naturalistic style. He is that rarity--a sensitive writer who can carry his point without forcing."
  • Time Magazine "McClure's stories ... have been noteworthy in equal measure for their poignant evocation of [South Africa], their perception of partnership, and their acute sense of sexual obsession."
  • P. D. James "[McClure is] a distinguished crime novelist who has created in his Afrikaner Tromp Kramer and Bantu Sergeant Zondi two detectives who are as far from stereotypes as any in the genre."
  • Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine "Soho completes its reprinting of one of the finest police series to begin in the 1970s, James McClure's eight books about Tromp Kramer and Mickey Zondi, a South African biracial detective team in the days of Apartheid."
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    Soho Press
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The Artful Egg
The Kramer And Zondi Mysteries, Book 7
James McClure
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