Crime fiction meets complex characters in Wilna Adriaanse's 'Blind Side'

Interestingly, Adriaanse never set out to write a crime novel. "I think stories choose writers," she says, "and you have to write the stories that choose you. I love to write about people; whether it's people in love or people who are battling some or other difficulty."

02 June 2019 - 00:00 By Tiah Beautement

Published in the Sunday Times (02/06/2019)

Blind Side ****
Wilna Adriaanse, Tafelberg
R300

English-reading crime fans will be delighted that Wilna Adriaanse's popular Dubbelspel has been translated into English, with its sequel, End Game, coming soon.

The story revolves around Lieutenant Ellie McKenna, whose father, her hero and fellow cop, has been recently murdered on the job. Grief propels her into a hasty decision, going undercover in Cape Town's world of organised crime. With a lack of sleep and in unfamiliar circumstances McKenna finds herself in one moral quandary after another, in constant danger and never certain who
she can trust.

As the story picks up the pace, McKenna struggles to tell the "good guys" from the "bad guys". This leaves readers immersed in a story that dwells in the grey areas. "Sometimes it scares me how thin the line is, between 'good' and 'bad'," admits Adriaanse, "and how often you will be surprised at the level of deception where you expect it the least."

Yet it is these blurred lines that makes Blind Side so engaging, and allows the characters to be complex and alive. Not a single person in the story is a saint; even McKenna is full of flaws. But the two most delightfully shady and quirky characters are Brenda, a prostitute, and Happy, a street drunk and police informant. "They became two of my most beloved characters," says Adriaanse.

Interestingly, Adriaanse never set out to write a crime novel. "I think stories choose writers," she says, "and you have to write the stories that choose you. I love to write about people; whether it's people in love or people who are battling some or other difficulty."

Perhaps this explains why Blind Side's focus is more on people than crimes, despite danger lurking throughout the tale.

With the everyday come love and companionship, and McKenna discovers that going undercover cannot turn off matters of the heart. "Romance is an important part of most people's lives," Adriaanse says, "and it is so much more than the obvious."

But, in the end, the focus on the more personal side of the characters, regardless of what side on the law they stand, was inspired by Adriaanse's chat with a real-life police detective.

"I asked him what the hardest part of his job was. I expected he would tell me how difficult it is to work with criminals or crime scenes. Instead he told me how difficult it is to manage the team, because they are all humans with their own lives and families." @ms_tiahmarie

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