Christopher Radmann's debut novel, Held Up, is a tragic and brutal journey into the darkness of a grieving, and guilty, mind. Inspired by Radmann's own experiences, and that of family and friends, of living in South Africa, Radmann paints a vivid picture of a country that is divided not only by race but by wealth and violence.
On the way to meet his wife after purchasing a new BMW, South African Paul Van Niekerk falls victim to car jacking. Paul survives, but after the shock of the incident wears off and he realises something important was left in the car: his nine month old baby daughter, Chantel. What follows is Paul's attempt to retrieve his daughter, that takes him away from the comfort of his 'white' middle class neighbourhood and into the slums of Soweto, and his reflections of life prior to the incident.
I felt that the blurb for Held Up was slightly misleading, as I was expecting a fast paced, ultra violent, thriller. There are some violent moments in the quest to find baby Chantal, but overall I found this to be an impressive and unique take on a hijacking/kidnapping scenario. Rather than having Paul become a full blown vigilante in the quest to recover his daughter, Radmann has portrayed Paul's journey as something more introspective, but is still commenting on the horrors that are committed within the 'new' South African community.
Radmann's writing style, of short and blunt sentences, may be an acquired taste but I found it reflected Paul's state of mind and kept me hooked throughout the book. An intelligent, thought provoking, and heartbreaking novel.