Man Down by Irma Venter (trans.) Review: Feisty suspense

Man Down (Rogue #2) by Irma Venter is an action-thriller with fascinating feisty female leads and a laser-focused narrative. Read my full review.

Man Down (Rogue #2) by Irma Venter, trans. Karin Schimke, Review

Man Down Synopsis

In Irma Venter’s follow-up to the electric Hard Rain, Ranna Abramson returns home to the lion’s den to resurrect a long-dead past and save the man she loves.

Ranna Abramson wants to disappear.

But she knows she can’t keep running when a former enemy tracks her down in Mumbai with dire news: her onetime lover, journalist Alex Derksen, has disappeared back home in South Africa.

Torn between her desire for him and fear of a homecoming, Ranna knows she’s the only one who can find him. But only two things in South Africa would welcome her—the inside of a cell or the bottom of a grave. There, to the police she’s the prime suspect in three murders. To the press, she’s the Black Widow serial killer.

Despite her instinct to stay away, Ranna makes the journey. But the key to finding Alex lies in her painful past. And to uncover it, she’ll need to unravel a web of secrets tied to a long-forgotten crime.

Even if she finds Alex before it’s too late, Ranna must answer for past sins…or risk losing him forever.

Translated from Afrikaans by Karin Schimke

(Amazon Crossing, April 2021)

Genre: Action-Adventure, Thriller, Mystery, Drama, Romance, Translation

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Man Down Review

Man Down is the second title in Irma Venter’s action-thriller series Rogue, but it reads very well as a standalone. In fact, I think my lack of exposure to the key protagonists only served to heighten the predominantly character-driven cat-and-mouse slow-burn suspense and intrigue in this novel’s first half.

Venter’s contained ensemble cast (in number, not impact) and skilful use of alternating character first-person narratives (a construct I particularly enjoy) delivered compelling character development.

Her evocative depiction of the South African setting, a deeply scarred society with unrest simmering under every surface, amplified character tensions and reader suspicions. And, once inescapably engaged with the key protagonists’ plights, Man Down‘s pacing and action steadily builds to its thrilling conclusion.

There is barely a misstep in Karin Schimke’s taut and vivid translation. No mean feat given the narrative’s relatively high dialogue content.

Irma Venter’s Man Down is a fascinating combination of high-octane action-thriller and nuanced exploration of the smart and strong-willed independent female trope.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

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More Man Down Reviews

“A complicated but not convoluted plot with several unexpected twists matches well-developed characters, most of whom aren’t who they appear to be. Readers will be left wondering what’s next for Isabel. ”—Publishers Weekly

“Unlike a gripping tome by Tom Clancy where the cast of characters exceed the stars in any Galaxy, Irma Venter’s book is an exercise in thrilling simplicity. There are protagonists and there are antagonists. They combat each other both savagely as well as subtly.”—Blogternator

About the Author, Irma Venter

Irma Venter is a journalist and thriller writer. She loves traveling, Labradors, good coffee, excellent whiskey, and expensive chocolate—not necessarily in that order. She writes books about strong women, interesting men, and that fascinating space between right and wrong. She lives in South Africa.

About the Translator, Karin Schimke

Karin Schimke won both the South African Literary Translators Award and the Sol Plaatje Translation Award for Flame in the Snow, a collection of love letters from Ingrid Jonker to André Brink. She has translated various texts from Afrikaans and German to English. Man Down is her third translation of Irma Venter’s crime thrillers. Schimke works as a journalist and an editor. She is also a poet. Her first book of poetry, Bare & Breaking, won the Ingrid Jonker Prize for a debut collection.

* My receipt of a review copy from the publisher did not impact the expression of my honest opinions above.