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Wake Up Dead: A Cape Town Thriller

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  278 ratings  ·  56 reviews
An amphetamine-fueled thriller about a bombshell American widow on the run in Cape Town’s violent badlands—from a writer being compared to George Pelecanos and Richard Price

A split-second decision with no second chance: get it wrong and you wake up dead.

On a blowtorch-hot night in Cape Town, American ex-model Roxy Palmer and her gunrunner husband, Joe, are carjacked, leavi
ebook, 304 pages
Published February 2nd 2010 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published 2009)
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I was thrilled to find another South African crime writer, but found the violence is this book to be excessive. The book opens with a carjacking in Cape Town where the arms dealer husband of American Roxy Palmer dies and the gangbanger perpetrators (Disco and Godwynn), take center stage. Meanwhile, ex-cop turned mercenary, Billy Afrika is owed money, goes to see the husband, and then decides Roxy can help. Meanwhile, a local cop smells a rat, and decides to investigate the killing. Finally, Pipe ...more
Oct 12, 2009 Mack rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like fast paced, violent, action thrillers
This review is based on an ARC of Wake Up Dead by Roger Smith, (the author of Mixed Blood). Wake Up Dead will be published by Henry Holt & Co in February 2010. Roger lives in Cape Town, South Africa. His web site is Roger Smith Books

Links to sources that show the environment in which Wake Up Dead is set are at the end of the review.

As with Roger's first book, Mixed Blood, Wake Up Dead hits me at an intellectual as well as emotional level. It isn't a read-toss-forget novel. A good bit of this
Tim Niland
After reading about the renaissance in South African crime fiction in Library Journal and Booklist, I decided to take a look at this book. Blurbed by one of my favorite authors, Ken Bruen, as "unrelenting noir" it seemed like a good place to start. Beginning with a carjacking and a murder and building to a horror-show of atrocities, this story certainly isn't for the weak of stomach. Billy Afrika, a mixed race former mercenary and cop is the pivotal character around which a wild cast of characte ...more
This thriller is one that keeps you up, and reading to the end! Set in South Africa, Roxy, an American model, and Joe, her gunrunner husband, a man with very unsavory friends, are carjacked, leaving Joe dead in a pool of blood. Disco and Godwyn, the carjackers, are meth addicts, who have no idea what they've gotten into. Joe owes money to Billy Afrika, a mercenary, and former policeman, who appoints himself Roxy's protector, hoping to cash in and get his money from her. Also thrown into the powd ...more
Tom V
Man, this is a dark one. It just grinds away on you, like one of those tree-stump removal machines, eventually leaving a pile of chips where you thought your soul used to be. If there is a hero here, I can't find him; everybody in this work is playing the angle, getting the edge (sometimes a knife edge), working the system, gutting him before he guts you. The tension is unrelieved throughout and it's physically hard reading. Brutal.

Billy Afrika is back in town, looking for his mercenary pay to h
Doug Cornelius
Looking for a page-turning crime thriller? Wake Up Dead is violent crime story, full of bad people doing bad things.

With a book title like that you shouldn’t be expecting puppies, ponies and rainbows.

Two meth addicts on the streets of Cape Town decide to carjack a Mercedes. They pull ex-model Roxy and her husband out of the car and shoot him in the leg, leaving behind the gun in their meth-induced haze. Roxy decides on a quicky divorce and uses the gun to end her marriage. “Till death us do part
This book flat out kicks a**! I think the most amazing aspect of Smith's writing style is how he allows you to see the characters in a certain manner for a few chapters and then he puts you into their heads and turns your impression of them completely upside down. The characters all have their own story to tell and Smith tells them all with a style that keeps you hungering for more of their narrative. Smith is one of those writers that switch narrators and when he leaves one perspective you feel ...more
Lukasz Pruski
Roger Smith's second novel "Wake Up Dead" is definitely not in the same category as his great debut "Mixed Blood" (4 stars; my review is on Goodreads). Mr. Smith's first thriller, in addition to extreme violence and interesting plot, had depth and realistic characterizations. Both novels paint a horrifying portrait of Cape Flats, the Cape Town ghetto, but while the first book delivers acute social observation, "Wake Up Dead", also very brutal, is mostly about the plot and does not make connectio ...more
"A Thriller" is right--I had a hard time putting this book down. Full of action and characters who seemed to come to life. I'll look for more by this author.
Delta Tish
I really enjoyed this book, it keeps you wondering whats going to happen.
Kurt Ellis
I have been wanting to read a Roger Smith novel for a while. I found Wake Up Dead brutal in its imagery, but honest as well. I have to admit, I found it rather disturbing. Not because of the story being told, but because of the fact the many horrors portrayed in the tale, I know to be accurate. But as disturbing and uncomfortable as the story was, I could not put it down. I really enjoyed it, though I must say I was a little disappointed that there was no clear closure to what happened to some o ...more
Barbara ★
I liked the story but this is a tough read and not for the faint of heart. I kept reading hoping that something would redeem someone but no such luck. This is a rough book from beginning to end.

All the characters have basically lost or given up their humanity and therefore have few redeeming qualities. I can honestly say that I didn't like any of the characters, they are all violent and out for themselves. Though Piper is the only one who actually scared me. What a maniac. Our heroine (and I use
Rob Kitchin
If you’re heading on holiday to South Africa do not pack this book; indeed, the South African Tourist Board probably has a contract out on Smith’s head. It’s difficult to think of a crime that it is not committed in Wake Up Dead - armed robbery, murder, theft, blackmail, rape, fraud, bribery, assault, kidnapping, cannibalism, abandonment, carjacking, drug dealing, the harvesting of body parts; the list is endless. And they happen multiple times. In other words, Wake Up Dead is not for the faint ...more
I think I was just the wrong audience for this book, since I found the tone and the general crassness of its attitude a turn off almost from the very beginning. I don't mean to be a prude, and I think I like some material that's a little bit edgy-- hell, I think I gave Kathy Acker five stars at one point, etc-- but I felt the way that prison rape was a joke except when it was the worst possible thing anyone could imagine, and the way that dominates the book, was a little obnoxious, in a snickeri ...more
Les Braddock
First book that I have read by this author. I was pleasantly surprised. Brought up gritty images of the underbelly of Cape Town, South Africa, a Place I quickly admit to having no familiarity with other than the name. Gang rule, corrupt cops, the ever present war between the haves and the have-nots. A picture painted in dirt, blood and pain.

The characters were very sharply drawn reflection of the society they were formed in. Bo one is an Angel, that is certain from the very beginning. The bad gu
Excellent top-notch thriller. Very gritty, very violent, but this book is captivating. The pace is frantic. The story and ending are fantastic. I highly recommend this book. This is what 99 % of thriller writers try to do but don't come close. I have to read his others. I did the audio book and the actress who read it did a brilliant job with the accents.
Not that I had any plans to travel to South Africa, but after reading another thriller by Roger Smith, I might steer clear of Capetown. Contrasting the rich, white areas with the poor mixed-race areas makes for a clash of cultures and lots of drama. Some of the characters seem similar to those in "Mixed Blood" and other RS stories, but I found the antihero Billy Afrika intriguing. Although Roger Smith is described as an African Elmore Leonard, they write crime fiction from very different angles: ...more
Hard hitting thriller, gut renching and very vivid. Not the kind of book to read whilst eating. Also not a book to read prior to sleeping, will either keep you awake or invade your sleep with nightmares. I guess having been born and growing up in South Africa was very aware of all the crime and brutality in the country. The main reason why we eventually had to leave the country and emigrating to Canada was because of all the crime and total disregard for anyone's life. Great read about life in S ...more
i like violent and crime driven novels. this is TOO violent maybe. roger smith is very hardcore. South Africa yes, is pretty hardcore too, but damn. Of course, please do check in to Smith's bio, if true, violence and fuckedupedness has touch him and his family intimately so maybe all this sick stuff is where he's coming from, but just be aware that this isn't like Robert Parker violence, or even Denis Johnson violence, it's something more menacing, and seemingly more cinematic too. for what that ...more
Guillaume Masse
Pas de la grosse littérature, mais une intrigue rondement menée et très efficace. Aussitôt commencé et aussitôt fini. On se laisse embarquer facilement.
I thought is was good. It kept my attention. I just didn't know who the protaganist was. They were all bad and I wasn't routeing for any of them.
Mark Hepler
You think American noir is gritty?—try the African variety—it’s rough stuff. But having seen Cape Town’s shanties for myself (from the safety of the airport road) I’m guessing Smith’s depictions aren’t too far off the mark. And if you’re a politically correct type who thinks all kinds of homosexual love is cool, brace yourself for his prison scenes: they’ll change your mind.

Smith writes well and imaginatively, with flashes of brilliance, and knows how to build a looming sense of dread. You’ll st
Peycho Kanev
Honest, brutal writing with a lot of muscle. I like it a lot!
Robin Jonathan Deutsch
Wow, this book was a nasty piece of work and not for the faint of heart. Brutal in its descriptions of characters and killing. Smith is an extremely talented writer who can paint a picture with words like few other authors I have ever read. Albeit a nasty novel, more so than his first novel, Mixed Blood, if you like the noir category, this book is for you. It's an intense, gut-throbbing journey through Cape Town. It's not light on bad characters and bad things. It's also a brilliant piece of wri ...more
Brutal thriller, I did not get attached to the characters.
The Tourism Board of Cape Town would probably prefer that you not read any of Roger Smith’s books. They are thrillers, but brutal. The criminals run rampart and one of the primary “bad guys” kills by eviscerating his victims. WAKE UP DEAD is not for the faint of heart. I don’t recommend reading this book while you are eating. A sentence near the end of the book describes it well; "If the Cape Flats ever had a symbolic bird, it would be the vulture."
Wow what a rollercoaster of a story. Fast paced (bit confusing at first with so many characters being introduced) but I did get pulled into it. Not for the faint heared though - even with the warnings on the back cover I hadnt expected quite so much violence and death (how some of them die is really quite gruesome) and of course all the time you are thinking that some people have had to live through this sort of life and perhaps still are
Relentless is right. One of the scariest killers on recent pages in the prison “general” Piper. A world where reputation is all, this is a bleak terrifying vision of Cape Flats(the ghetto attached to Cape Town South Africa). Almost a comic farce but all the jokes are replaced with mayhem. Some silliness at the ending slightly distracts from Smith’s unblinking eye.
This book started out strong, a vivid, tough noir story, following several potentially interesting characters. But the multitude of characters, all unlikable, began to slow the story down and I had to struggle through the middle section. But then it picked up again at the end and delivered on it's excellent noir beginnings.
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Roger Smith's thrillers Man Down, Sacrifices, Capture, Dust Devils, Wake Up Dead, Mixed Blood & Ishmael Toffee are published in eight languages and two are in development as movies in the U.S.

His books have won the German Crime Award and been nominated for Spinetingler Magazine Best Novel awards. He also writes horror under the pen name Max Wilde.

“Roger Smith writes with the brutal beauty of
More about Roger Smith...
Mixed Blood: A Thriller Dust Devils Ishmael Toffee Capture Sacrifices

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