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book cover of The Top Prisoner of C-Max

The Top Prisoner of C-Max

(The Robbin Island List)
(The sixth book in the Yudel Gordon series)
A novel by

It is twenty years after South Africa's first democratic election. A former activist by the name of Norman Mbatha, now an old man living in relative poverty, is killed by a sniper. It seems impossible that this could be for political reasons. His activities are something of the distant past. Abigail grew up in his home during their years in political exile in London. Mbatha and his wife had taken her in after her activist parents were killed in a cross border raid by the apartheid authorities.

Abigail is devastated by the crime. She asks for and is given the case. When she visits the crime scene the police ballistics section shows her that the shot that killed Mbatha came from more than a kilometre away and was fired from a singular MacMillan sniper rifle. There are only a few of these rifles in the country and their owners are all immediate suspects. Pressure from the political leadership results in one of them being arrested and held before the ballistics results are in.

Francois van der Bijl's very wealthy farming family is part of an extreme right-wing Afrikaner political movement and he is an Olympic rifle shot. A car belonging to his family is found near the crime scene.

While Abigail is desperate for a conviction, she is unhappy about Francois's arrest. She feels they should have waited until they were sure. She calls on Yudel Gordon for assistance. He has access to the prisoner and is able to interview him without raising police concerns.

Abigail and Yudel have a very close, non-sexual relationship. They are a truly unusual working partnership. She has been a party member since her parents were murdered. She returned to the country in 1990 when Nelson Mandela was freed and is the widow of one of the beneficiaries of a so-called empowerment deal. Robert became enormously wealthy overnight. Now in her early forties she is close to the top in the Department of Justice.

Yudel's story could not be more different. Much of his career took place working in apartheid prisons during those years. Being both Jewish and sympathetic to the liberation movement he was an outsider, always viewed with suspicion. Now, because of his past in the apartheid system, he is still an outsider and still viewed with suspicion. He has been retrenched by the Department of Correctional Services, but brought back as a consultant.

Juxtaposed against them are the van der Bijls, a very wealthy farming family of which Francois is a member. They are deeply resentful of the new government, which they feel is discriminating against Afrikaners, especially farmers. They point to the high incidence of murders of Afrikaner farmers and their workers as proof of the government's indifference to them.

At Abigail's request Yudel interviews the suspect and comes to the conclusion they have the wrong man. In a meeting with Abigail and the minister of Justice he explains his thinking. Yudel shocks the minister by pointing out that Mbatha is an obscure figure now. Perhaps only members of the liberation movement know about Mbatha. The killer may be one of them. He further surprises the minister by saying that he believes Francois has a black lover.

The action also follows the killer who is lying low in a country town, but cannot avoid his instincts. Two women die while he is there.

While Francois is still in custody, a former trade unionist, also an activist from the past is killed by the same rifle.

The press briefing on the two killers is packed by all the local and international media representatives on the continent. Abigail is forced to take part and is asked if there is a personal element in this for her, given the way her parents died. As she is leaving, the journalist who suggested this intercepts her. She does not want to talk to him, but he persuades her to listen. He tells

Genre: Mystery    

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Used availability for Wessel Ebersohn's The Top Prisoner of C-Max

Kindle Editions

July 2017 : USA, Canada, UK Kindle edition

Title: The Robbin Island List (Yudel Gordon Book 6)
Author(s): Wessel Ebersohn
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   

July 2012 : USA, Canada, UK Kindle edition

Title: The Top Prisoner of C-Max
Author(s): Wessel Ebersohn
Publisher: Umuzi
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA