Personal and professional issues have forced Insp. Albertus Beeslaar, the beleaguered hero of South African author Brynard’s impressive debut novel and series launch, to leave his position in Johannesburg for the unforgiving platteland of the Northern Cape. There Beeslaar and his two inexperienced sergeants look into the murders of artist Frederika Swarts—tagged “the Madonna of the Kalahari” by the media—and her four-year-old adopted daughter at their remote farmhouse. The artist’s estranged sister, Sara Swarts, is convinced that the double homicide is not connected to other brutal farm murders in the area and returns to her childhood home to investigate. Together Beeslaar and Swarts begin to uncover a grand conspiracy that’s entangled in tradition and mythology, historic injustices regarding land ownership, and unadulterated greed. Though the momentum suffers mightily in places, crime fiction fans will find the picturesque backdrop, cast of authentic characters, and knotty story line to be more than satisfying.