Book Review: Gallows Hill (A Clare Hart Mystery) by Margie Orford

Posted July 9, 2014 by Karen in Book Reviews / 1 Comment

Gallows hill photo 187807511-199x300_zps533b8b6d.jpg
Title:Gallows Hill

Author: Margie Orford

Genre: Adult Fiction/Mystery & Detective

Publish Date: July 8, 2014

Publisher: Witness Impulse

Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars


The woman lay curled up inside the small box. She had been jammed into it. Her head must have pressed up against the top, her feet against the bottom. Her belly would have pressed painfully against her lungs, her thighs. If she had been alive to feel it. A dog scavenging in an illegal building site digs up a bone. A human bone.

She drags it back to where her mistress lies dead in an abandoned shed, but there are hundreds more … Skeletons which have lain undisturbed for centuries beneath Gallows Hill, where Cape Town’s notorious gibbets once stood. Investigative profiler Dr Clare Hart is called in by Captain RiedwaanFaizal of the SAPS Gang Unit and soon discovers that a deadly, more recent secret lies hidden among these long-buried bones. Who was the woman in the green silk dress? Who wanted her dead? Who buried her body among these ancient graves?

As Clare Hart gets closer to revealing the truth about Gallows Hill, she becomes entangled with a fascinating but vulnerable young woman, and is drawn into a world of art, desire and destructive jealousy. Against the backdrop of corporate corruption and seething political tensions, Clare and Riedwaan’s complex relationship remains as explosive as ever – and their very lives are at risk: the keepers of the secret of the woman in the silk dress will stop at nothing to keep the truth buried Gallows Hill is a dark and compelling crime story that will thrill fans of Deon Meyer and Tess Gerritsen.

Robbie’s Review

Set against the tumultuous back drop of today’s South Africa, author Margie Orford once more weaves a tangled web of a story that calls for her character Dr. Clare Hart to find a killer.  This time the killer will be someone who has gotten away with a crime for over 20 years.  During the excavation of a building site under questionable circumstances, a mass grave of old bones is uncovered in a spot where slaves and prisoners were once hung. . . and allowed to hang for days until they dropped off their gallows.  However, the old bones which are considered archeological specimens are not the ones that require Dr. Hart’s expertise. In the course of the investigation, the bones of a woman who has been dead for a much shorter period of time are discovered and Clare is presented with the case as if it was a gift from Captain Riedwaan Faizal who also happens to be her lover.

“It’s Valentines’s Day next week” he said. “Think of it as a present. From me to you.”

“Most people would give red roses.”

Riedwaan touched her cheek.

“You’re not like most people.”

Clare’s investigation brings her into the world of art, down and dirty big business, and the  South African political arena with its shady politicians and corrupt policemen who are on the take and the make.  Despite obstacles at every turn, Clare is determined to “get these bones to talk to us, tell us who she was.”

Gallows Hill has all the elements of a great thriller:  mystery, suspense, heart stopping fear, devastating loss and bright lights extinguished too soon.  There are bad guys, worse guys and sleazy characters of both sexes.  Margie Orford’s depiction of today’s South African political, social, and cultural climate is intriguing to me in this post-apartheid era.  She does a masterful job of showing the crippling poverty and the inequalities affecting the lives of women and children.

As she searches for ways to get the bones to talk to her, Clare encounters a number of strong women whose quips in interview reflect the author’s wry sense of humor.

You never realise quite how bad your taste in men is until they retire.   Double the husband, half the money.

He’s a narcissist.  Charming and handsome, but cold. There was nobody in the relationship but him.  I was just the mirror.  But I think I wasn’t quite polished enough to reflect back what he wanted to see.

Despite the complex and compelling story lines which characterize all the Clare Hart books, it is the author’s portrayal of the lady herself and her prickly relationship with the enigmatic Riedwaan that continue to draw me into these books.  Margie Orford never fails to impress me with her ability to establish the unique connection between Clare and Riedwaan with just a few words.  They have quickly become one of my favorite fictional couples. Despite the fact that Gallows Hill opens up with an intimate scene, this aspect of their relationship is most often written with a subtlety which leaves the reader’s imagination to furnish the details.   I’ve read all the Clare Hart books and I have to say this is one of my favorites. Gallows Hill can certainly be read as a standalone, but you will be cheating yourself if you don’t take the opportunity to get to know the characters by reading all the books.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book directly from the author.  I was not paid to read or review this book.  All opinions are my own, and I was never influenced by anything or anyone.

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About the Author

Margie Orford photo MargieOrfordAuthorPic_zpsd7903029.jpg
MARGIE ORFORD is an award-winning journalist who has been dubbed the Queen of South African Crime Fiction. Her novels have been translated into nine languages. She was born in London and grew up in Namibia. A Fulbright Scholar,she was educated in South Africa and the United States. She is Executive Vice-President of South African PEN, the patron of Rape Crisis and of the children’s book charity, the Little Hands Trust. She lives in Cape Town. The entire Clare Hart series is forthcoming from Witness.


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