Claymore Straker is an intriguing character. In The Abrupt Physics of Dying and The Evolution of Fear, we are introduced to Clay as a troubled South African engineer who has a distant military past and secrets that relate to his service in Angola. Reconciliation For The Dead uncovers the secrets that have been eating away at Clay all these years and I was very excited to read this third instalment of the Claymore Straker series to learn what Clay’s demons are.
Reconciliation For The Dead is part transcript of Clay ‘s evidence to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, about his time in the South African Army whilst fighting in Angola, but mainly flashbacks to how he, and his friend Eben, along with his fellow soldiers, find themselves embroiled in a confusing web of deceit, violence and secret schemes that ultimately lead to their downfall. Clay wants to give a voice to those who are no longer able, and to perhaps shed some of the guilt he has felt all these years.
Based on true, horrific events of South African history, Paul Hardisty has offered his readers an insight into his character’s past to portray an understanding of what makes Straker the man he is, the challenges he has had to face from a young age and how decisions from his past continue to shape his future. Ultimately, this is a retelling of Straker’s journey of how he became so battle-scarred and so introvert. Largely set in the early 1980’s, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission transcripts shows the present day “reconciliation” of the atrocities, alongside the events from Straker’s past to give a clear picture of events, but to highlight the fact that what can be proved is different to what actually happened.
As we have come to expect from Hardisty, Reconciliation For The Dead is a beautifully intelligent narrative alongside some stunning figurative descriptions of the landscapes in which the action takes place. Even when the scenes are gruesome, Hardisty writes with such precision and with incredible awareness of the locations he describes, the reader is completely ensconced in the action and can easily place themselves alongside Straker as he becomes increasingly aware of the dangerous games in which he finds himself an unwitting player.
Hardisty builds up the emotion in his narrative so well, the reader feels incredible sympathy with Clay. In the first two books we have got to know a tense, troubled character who tries to do the right thing but does not always succeed; a man who struggles to maintain a relationship, but who has ultimately been portrayed with such depth that we as readers want to know more about this man. This book gives us that. Whilst there is a lot of action as events are described, ultimately, Hardisty has provided us with a compelling narrative to enhance our understanding of who Straker is, and why.
Reconciliation For The Dead is a gripping narrative with scientific, political and historical elements superbly combined by Hardisty, that leaves the reader not only feeling that they’ve read an intensely fascinating novel, but that they have learned a few things along the way. Straker has plenty of stories left to tell, I’m sure, and I hope we get to find out what he does next. Orenda Books has published yet another uniquely brilliant novel and I look forward to reading more from Paul Hardisty in years to come.