“Things that love night love not such things as these.”
Lear is about family, unconditional love, and loyalty. So is this story.
It is at night that the worst fears are realized. Janice is asleep when the sounds of the diesel engines wake her. Her husband is no longer beside her and she can hear raised voices in the street. She joins Wally outside and asks. “Is it them?” “Yes, I think so. Get the children.”
“Both were asleep when Janice reached them. The girl was four and the boy not yet three….She bent to pick up the boy, but she felt the child inside her move, and shook them both instead. ‘Wake up – wake up quickly. We have to run away.’
From her position she could see the first of the personnel carriers as it entered the village….Soldiers leaped from the back, their rifles held in both hands, the fixed bayonets flashing in the lights of the next vehicle. She knew who they were. This was Five Brigade….She had heard about their bayonets and the way they used them. The orders by which they functioned demanded that, if the rebel women were pregnant, they were to be killed and their dissident sons with them before they were born.”
Twenty-seven years later, Abigail finds herself in some difficulty in South Africa. As an outspoken attorney in the Justice Department, she is furious when a new regime orders that the Scorpions, an elite force that loves making the arrests of high-profile criminals in the full-glare of television lights. They are to be replaced with the Hawks, a group more amenable to the political ambitions of their overlords. Abigail is offered a significant promotion on one condition: she must take a six month sabbatical while the restructuring takes place.
Abigail is not a woman who deals well with free time. She is rescued from months of boredom when she receives an envelope from Kristj Patel, a lawyer in Zimbabwe. Included in the packet are two labeled photographs. One is an old photo of her cousin, Katy, Janice’s daughter. The other photo is a recent picture of her cousin, Tony, a boy Abigail didn’t know existed. Tony is being held in Zimbabwe as a member of the dissident group known as the Harare 7, a group pledged to bring down the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe. The group is facing the death penalty.
Abigail goes to Zimbabwe, a country she knows and loves. She practiced law there for a few months so she is familiar with the justice system. The first thing she must do is get a court order allowing Tony in jail. As another attorney, Kristj Patel is helpful but Abigail really needs the help of prison psychologist, Yudel Gordon. It has been four years since they last worked together but Yudel makes himself available, well aware of the circumstances under which Tony and his associates are being held.
Wessel Ebersohn has a gift for creating on the page the psychological terror that sets the stage for the story. That much of the atmosphere of place is a result of the time in which the characters live. Five Brigade was ” formed in 1981 and was used in genocidal operations against Ndebele-ethnic Mugabe opponents in Matabeleland.“. Janice’s experiences in the beginning of the book are those of real women.
Ebersohn writes of Abigail, “The events of the last few days had brought back memories that she would rather than the death of her aunt have left hidden. She had been in a safe house in Lesotho when the house was attacked and her father murdered by soldiers of the old regime. Two years later her mother had been killed by a parcel bomb. “In some ways, the way they had died was easier for her to accept than the death of her aunt. Her parents were victims of the racist regime that she had accepted as evil, an enemy of the people. Her aunt’s death, on the other hand, had been at the hands of what she had been taught was an army of liberation.”
THE OCTOBER KILLINGS is a personal story told within the context of a country. THOSE WHO LOVE NIGHT is the story of the people of Zimbabwe framed by examples of people trying to make the country into a democracy. Each book is independent of the other but the reader might benefit from reading them in order of publication.