Reading “Man Down” is a bit like slowing down your car to appreciate a particularly gruesome car accident before the authorities get there to cover the bodies and retrieve limbs from the middle of the lane. But, while “Man Down” is an extremely violent and visceral book, it is made compelling by Smith’s fine handling of plot and suspense, and his ability to inject nuance and complexity into a cast of characters that are, for the most part, complete assholes.
“Man Down” tells the story of John and Tanya Turner, and husband and wife who escape the turbulent violence of South Africa’s Johannesburg 1 and transplant to Tuscon, AZ, where they essentially live the “American dream”. John is a successful businessman and Tanya a respected college professor. They also have a daughter, Lucy, who has all the privileges of an upper-middle class upbringing in America.
It’s immediately evident that the Turners’ front-facing appearance is a façade of domestic peace and prosperity, but that precarious act blows apart one morning when three armed men bull their way inside the house to terrorize the Turners. But, as the book progresses, this home invasion transforms from a simple, brutal, and random act to a bloody exclamation point at the end of a study on the inescapability of karma.
- Apparently, this is Roger Smith’s first novel set primarily in America. His other stories are set in South Africa. ↩