In the steamy world of mystery novelists James McClure was never very among the most well known, and his output was modest by most publishing standards, but his series of Kramer & Zondi novels remain beloved by many readers around the world.
I just finished reading The Artful Egg, one of the excellent books in McClure’s unique Kramer & Zondi series. These novels revolve around the exploits of two irreverent South African police detectives, one black and one white. I found a paperback copy of this book recently during my trip to Myanmar, in Nyaungshwe of all crazy places, at Htein Linn’s Golden Bowl Bookshop. What a find!
The Song Dog, is cited by many reviewers as McClure’s best book in the series, but The Artful Egg, written in 1984, is also a delight. Two different murders, some playful dialogue, absurd scenarios, clever plotting, and a confused and sexually frustrated Indian postman who likens himself to Sherlock Holmes, help to give the book plenty of twists and local color. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
One aspect of McClure’s novels that make them particularly noteworthy is that they are set in 1970s and 1980s South Africa, during the apartheid era. Having a black (zulu) and a white police detective to team up and solve crimes together adds a compelling social and political dynamic to the story.
Sadly, McClure passed away in 2006 at the age of 66, so we won’t be treated to any more Kramer and Zondi tales. But mystery fans would be doing themselves a favor by discovering his books. There are eight titles in the Kramer and Zondi series. He also wrote three other novels and three works of non-fiction, in addition to being a full-time journalist for various newspapers in the UK for many years.