Friday Night Book Club: Read an exclusive excerpt from NR Brodie’s new thriller Three Bodies
 More about the book!

The Friday Night Book Club: Exclusive excerpts from Pan Macmillan every weekend.

Staying in this evening? Of course you are! Get comfortable with a glass of wine and this extract from Three Bodies, the new thriller from NR Brodie.

In Three Bodies, the formidable duo (from Brodie’s debut novel Knucklebone) are fighting time to figure out who is killing women in and around Joburg … is there a serial killer on the loose?

‘In this captivating thriller, NR Brodie elegantly confronts our biases, prejudices and racism and masterfully depicts the complexities of contemporary South Africa. Thoughtful, entertaining, necessary!’ – Phemelo Motene, broadcaster

About the book

Reshma Patel and Ian Jack are back.

The first body was found in the Hartbeespoort Dam. An unidentified woman, presumably drowned, washed up on the banks of an exclusive golf estate. Next came the discovery of a grisly crime scene deep underground in Johannesburg, somehow connected to a second woman found dead in the Jukskei River where it ran through Alexandra.

When the body of a third woman is pulled out of the Vaal River, south of Joburg, Captain Reshma Patel starts to wonder if a serial killer is at work – or if the mutilated corpses have anything to do with the spate of cash-in-transit heists she’s busy investigating.

When a fourth woman goes missing Reshma and her partner, former police officer Ian Jack, have to figure out who is behind the killings – and to stop them, before they can strike again.

Read the excerpt:



The golf cart crawled along the brick causeway in almost complete silence. Only a very faint whirr gave Ian Jack any indication that it was switched on at all. Myburgh had told him it was electric. There were plug stations for the carts all over the estate.

‘Do we have to drive in this thing?’ Ian asked, feeling stupid, a grown man bundled up inside a toy mobile.

‘We could have taken my car.’

Myburgh didn’t turn his head. ‘None of the roads go straight in this place, and it’s further than it looks on the map. You got to cross water, go over canal bridges,’ he said, pointing as he steered with the other hand.

‘And the bridges are only big enough for the carts.’

Ian thought Myburgh was secretly enjoying the drive. The older man was wearing mirrored shades that, together with his blue slacks and pale blue shirt, made him look more like an ex-cop than he might have realised. Or, Ian thought, maybe Myburgh knew exactly what he was trying to look like. It was a perfect autumn day out at the dam. The last of the rains had come over Easter, six weeks ago, clearing some of the sludge from the water. While the rest of the province was slowly turning brown at the edges, the greens at La Gondola were a uniform shade of emerald. Ian took in a deep breath of almost-country air as Myburgh navigated. There were few street signs in the estate – those that Ian could make out all had Italian names, which Myburgh said were named after bridges – and even fewer house markings. To add to the confusion, all the houses looked more or less the same to Ian’s eye: two-storey replicants, rendered in either off-white or off-pink. Ian guessed that in the brochures the colours had proper names, like Tuscan Cloud and Tuscan Sunset. He wondered to himself how visitors knew which of
the 150 houses to go to.

‘It’s the third Tuscan Cloud house on the second block after the corner of Ponto Pugni and Ponto Paglia.’

‘What did you say the houses went for here?’ he asked.

‘The two-bedroomed ones start at five-and-a-half,’ Myburgh said.


Ian gave a low whistle. ‘Are they nice at least?’

Myburgh paused, and offered an awkward smile. ‘It’s not so bad.

My handicap’s down,’ he said, looking briefly embarrassed before turning his attention back to the miniature road. Myburgh’s wife had passed away the previous year, finally defeated by the cancer she had fought for so long. Two months after her death, one of Myburgh’s old mates had offered him a job as head of security for a group of housing estates on the edge of the Hartbeespoort Dam, an hour north-west of Johannesburg. Myburgh had sold his house and almost everything in it, and had moved out to start a new life in the country. He had been asking Ian to come and visit for months, and Ian felt a twinge of guilt at putting off the trip until now. He wondered if that was why Myburgh had called him and asked him for help.

‘I’m sorry I haven’t come sooner, Oom,’ Ian said, offering a small apology.

‘I meant to, it’s just …’ He trailed off.

Myburgh gave a small smile. ‘It’s fine, Cousin,’ he said, the nickname sliding easily off his lips. ‘You needed time, anyway,’ the older man said, diplomatically avoiding mentioning Ian’s injury. ‘You alright now?’

Myburgh asked without looking, his concession to personal conversation. Ian knew it wasn’t that Myburgh didn’t care; it was just that he didn’t know how to get into it. Which was fine with Ian, who didn’t particularly want to talk about physiotherapy and how his arm still hurt in certain positions two years after he’d been shot. He was mostly fine. It wasn’t bad enough to feel justified complaining about any more. He could still type, still drive, still shoot. Ian shrugged, and hoped that was enough of a response for his father’s old friend.

‘And work’s alright? Your degree?’

Myburgh asked, moving the conversation along so neither of them had to feel stuck in an uncomfortable moment. Ian grinned.

‘Ja, Oom. I’m finished now. The graduation ceremony will be in July. You should come. If you want to, I mean,’ he said, covering up the momentary lapse into spaces that might be too personal. But Myburgh smiled.

‘I’ve never been to one of those fancy-ass things. Maybe I’ll come through. Dress up in my old uniform. Scare the shit out of some of your classmates,’ he cackled.

Ian tried not to react outwardly, but his jaw clenched. He knew Myburgh hadn’t approved of the student fee protests the previous year. Ian had even considered muting the old man’s rants on Facebook during the demonstrations. All the while Ian had been on campus, helping his undergrad students deal with beatings from security guards and police, and the tear gas. He was about to say something when Myburgh burst out laughing.

‘I’m just pulling your leg, Cousin. Didn’t realise it would make you turn purple,’ he said, evidently enjoying his own joke.

Ian was about to feign his own laugh in response when Myburgh announced that they had arrived. The merriment disappeared the moment they stepped off the silly golf cart and onto the bare patch of land between the canal and the dam. The water lapped at the lock’s edge. About a hundred metres off the shore, just past a clump of moored boats, Ian could make out a few islands of green.

‘I thought the plants came all the way up to the shore,’ he said.

‘You said the gardener found her?’ Myburgh nodded.

‘We had one of those … boat things, those harvesters, come through after they found the girl,’ Myburgh said. ‘Cleared out a couple hundred metres. But it’s still covered on the other side. They usually die back a bit in winter. The cold’s supposed to make them grow slower. And then they spread again as soon as it gets warm. Just in time for the boat owners to complain,’ he said, nodding out at the bobbing craft.

Ian wondered if they counted as yachts. From somewhere across the dam, he couldn’t see where, they could hear what sounded like children screaming – the pitch was just on the right side of play, rather than panic, but the dislocated noise still made Ian feel uneasy.

‘You hear strange shit from across the dam,’ Myburgh said.

‘Water carries noise. Come, I’ll show you photos of the dead woman,’ he said,
walking over to the golf cart and reaching into a small cubbyhole to retrieve an oblong black item almost the size of a small book. Myburgh took off his shiny silver shades and replaced them with a pair of reading glasses from inside his shirt pocket.

‘Now let me just try find them,’ he said, holding the tablet-sized phone at arm’s length and peering down his nose as if the phone screen were a crossword puzzle.

Ian could just see the screen from where he stood, although there was a slight glare coming off the glass. He watched as Myburgh flipped through photo thumbnails, selecting one that suddenly came up large. It was a bad picture of a set of golf clubs. Myburgh scrolled through eight almost identical golfing still-lifes before changing to another set: Myburgh at a restaurant, with a woman somewhere in the general region of his age. Myburgh with the same woman, holding hands above a serviette sculpted in the shape of a heart. They both looked very happy. Myburgh blushed and scrolled past the images without saying anything. Ian kept equally quiet.

‘Here we are,’ Myburgh said, still blushing, as he eventually found the right album. He handed the phone over to Ian.

‘Those are the photos I took that morning. Right before the police came.’

Myburgh stood back to give Ian a chance to look at the photographs of the body that Jonas Jiyane had pulled to shore. The victim was a black woman, somewhere in her twenties, Ian guessed. Medium build. Skinny-ish, or athletic. There were no photos on the phone that captured her body in full, so Ian had to make her up from pieces, a montage of her head, torso, arms and legs, wreathed in ropes of water hyacinth. The body’s time in the dam made it hard to tell, from the photos at least, what was an original feature belonging to the woman herself and what had been imposed on her underwater. Her eyes were closed, the face very slightly swollen, all of which rendered the corpse expressionless, neither calm nor angry in death. The woman’s skin appeared dark in some photos, almost purple against the green of the grass and the hyacinth leaves. In others – where Ian suspected Myburgh had tried to use his flash – the skin looked lighter, and there were areas where the flesh appeared marbled, with some spots of grey. Ian knew these things could be used to estimate the time of death, but he made no comment as he browsed through the gallery. In the pictures, the dead woman’s long black locks spiralled out against the lawn. In among the strands Ian could make out green, brown, detritus that must have been dredged from the lake. Most other features were indistinct, in part because Myburgh’s photographs were terrible and often out of focus.

‘Do they know how long she’d been dead?’ he asked, as he scrolled back to the first photos of the woman’s body sprawled on the dam embankment.

‘They say two months. It’s hard to tell from looking at the corpse because most of the dam is completely … something. Toxic. No. Anoxic,’ Myburgh said, locating the right word.

‘There’s no oxygen. Because of those fucking lilies, and the … algae. The whole lake was covered in it, for weeks. It slows down the soft tissue damage.’

‘How come they said they were so sure of the timeline then?’ Ian asked.

‘I’ll explain that in a moment,’ Myburgh said, the tone of his voice shifting.

Ian caught a bitter note, but decided to wait to dig for what lay behind it. Ian returned to the photographs. In some, Myburgh had tried to take closer shots. There was what appeared to be mud across the victim’s face and throat, which could have come from when her body was dragged ashore. She was wearing a pink T-shirt with a circular, surfertype logo, and a pair of cut-off denim shorts. No shoes. A blue plastic bag was tangled around one of her ankles and lay, deflated, to the side.


Categories Fiction South Africa

Tags Book excerpts Book extracts Friday Night Book Club Nechama Brodie NR Brodie Pan Macmillan SA Three Bodies

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