Book Club: Water Music by Margie Orford
Cassi yanked at the sheet of black plastic, exposing a swaddled child. Matted black hair, pale bruised skin. A girl. Maybe three years old. So thin, her knees drawn up to her chest, stick-like arms wrapped around them. The child was blue with cold.
When an emaciated child is found on an icy Cape mountainside, profiler Dr. Clare Hart is baffled that no one has reported her missing. Where does she come from, who does she belong to? To further complicate matters, a distraught man pleads with Clare to find his missing granddaughter, Rosa, a gifted but troubled young cellist who has abandoned her music scholarship.
In a race against time, Clare battles to unravel the two cases and locate the missing Rosa. As winter tightens its grip, she is confronted by chilling secrets in a context where criminals act with increasing impunity and the police can no longer be trusted. Amidst the frenzy of the investigation, Clare must also bear a secret of her own.
Water Music is the first Margie Orford novel I’ve picked up. Why? Well because I really really liked the cover. A girl playing a cello on a patio with the woods in the background – it just screams pick me up! It was only later when I realised it was actually the fifth book in the Clare Hart series. But even though I was not familiar with the character at all, Water Music is so well written I feel like I’ve known Dr Clare Hart for longer. I did get the sense that there was something I’m missing in her personal life, probably because I haven’t followed her from the beginning, but this was definitely not a deal breaker and I still enjoyed Water Music as a standalone.
Dr. Clare Hart is the series protagonist and a strong female character one can really identify with. During her search for the identity of the emaciated child and why her mother wasn’t looking for her, Clare is struggling with her own secret while trying to navigate the shark invested waters flowing through Section 28 (a division of the police department focused on crimes against children). There are a few minor characters, such as Major Ina Britz, Captain Riedwaan Faizal, Dr Anwar Jacobs and Mandla Njobe, that join Dr. Clare Hart in her search for the truth. Clare obviously has a more in depth connection with each of these characters probably more explored and defined earlier in the series. Nonetheless, I still managed to see where each one fits into her ever complicated life. Orford also very cleverly integrates South African culture and mannerisms into each character making them even more relatable.
I really enjoyed the overall plot, which not only revolves around the search for the missing children, but also illustrates, more subtly, the very real problems in South Africa such as political influences and agendas, corruption, gangs, drugs, crime and just surviving every day life. When first starting Water Music you think it will be all about finding out what happened to the poor little girl found in the Cape mountainside, and yes it is to a certain degree; but then a very talented cellist, not really a child anymore, goes missing and all of a sudden the plot revolves around this case. A part of the intrigue is because there are more leads to follow, but o how things pan out at the end. You’ll just have to pick up Water Music and see for yourself.
After picking up the book, I finished it within two days, even sneaking in some reading time at work. It really is a page turner with a brilliant storyline and cinematic style of writing. I was so invested I just didn’t want it to end, I now understand why they say Margie Orford is the queen of South African crime thriller writing. It really is a much deserved title!
The Mystery Corner rates Water Music a magnificent four, you need to at some point in your life, read a Margie Orford novel. If you really want to take advantage of this talented writer, I would suggest maybe starting with the first book in the series, Like Clockwork. Margie Orford actually recommends starting with Daddy’s Girl if you want to get to know Dr. Hart better. That’s definitely my next read, I want to follow Dr. Clare Hart from the beginning!
Have you read Water Music or any of Margie Orford’s other novels? What are your thoughts?