This is a book review of the novel by Vivian de Klerk called Serpent Crescent. If I had to describe this book in a few words I would say that this book is ingeniously plotted, charming and intensely human and worth every bit of suspense. From the very first few pages, this is an explosive and startling novel with a lot of twists and turns mixed in with a bit of wit and intrigue.
In the small rural town of Qonda, South Africa, the power and water supplies are unreliable, property prices are down, and citizens are slowly suffocating in the acrid smoke from the municipal dump. This was so relatable as a South African myself and seeing this in so many parts of our country. Recently retired English teacher Megan Merton has lived here all her life, most of it at No. 8 Serpent Crescent. So who better than this self-styled pillar of society to shine a spotlight on the decline and dysfunction, not to mention the dubious activities, past and present, of many of her neighbours. Nefarious deeds and bad behaviour deserve harsh treatment and appropriate retribution, if not consignment to one of Dante’s fiendish nine circles of hell. At least that’s what Megan believes – in fact she’s been taking matters into her own hands, unnoticed, for years. And now she has decided to write it all down, to shake all of the skeletons loose, and rejoice in the inventive punishments she devised and personally delivered to the wicked. Then her neighbour Elizabeth Cardew, a lecturer in Classical Studies, suffers a stroke and Megan is entrusted with the keys to No. 9. While Elizabeth begins a long recovery at the local care facility, Whispering Pines, Megan relishes the chance to snoop. Curious as to ‘what a stroke victim looks like’, she decides to visit and see for herself. A bond develops between the two women – one a cold and calculating sociopath, the other a courageous and lonely academic – something that takes both of them by surprise.
The best part
There are books that tell a unique and unforgettable story, but there are a few unique ones that also have the exceptional quality of taking the reader on a path and journey of self-reflection with the protagonist and in this case Megan Merton. At first she comes across as just an old 65 year old retired English teacher, that wants to write down her memoir. I loved how the author depicted this character, taking us into the mind and evoking so many different feelings. I found this to be mixture of the TV Series, Dexter crossed with Murder she wrote. I loved getting to know the tales of both women. Their experiences defined who they are.
Written in the first person, the author makes no attempt to sway the reader into justifying the actions of Megan, but rather to make up their own mind about this character. We also get a glimpse into the experiences of Elizabeth at the local care facility as she uses her laptop to describe her time there. As the reader you also become part of Elizabeth’s recovery. This is definitely a book that I can recommend.