The First Rule Of Survival, Paperback Book
5 out of 5 (1 rating)


Seven years ago in Cape Town three young white South African schoolboys were abducted in broad daylight on three consecutive days.

They were never heard of again. Now, a new case for the unpredictable Colonel Vaughn de Vries casts a light on the original enquiry; for him, a personal failure which has haunted him for those seven years and has cost him his marriage and peace of mind. A former British government agent, friend to De Vries, provides intelligence on this new case, but is any of it admissible?

Struggling in a mire of departmental and racial rivalry, De Vries seeks the whole truth and unravels a complex history of abuse, deception and murder.

Challenging friends, colleagues and enemies, De Vries comes to realise he doesn't know who is which. Set against the background of Cape Town and the endless, rolling South African veld, this chilling thriller reveals layer after layer of abuse - physical, political and psychological. Shortlisted for the Crime Writer's Association Gold Dagger 2014 (Crime Novel of the Year) Praise for Paul Mendelson: 'An excellent, uncompromising crime thriller made even better by its setting ...the story is two journeys in one, and I'm glad I took both' Lee Child 'A jaw-droppingly brilliant crime thriller. Imagine The Killing moved to Cape Town and into the landscape of the hot and dusty African veld' Philip Glenister 'The First Rule of Survival is an incredibly atmospheric, complex and dazzling debut from a thrilling and authentic new voice in crime fiction' Brian McGilloway 'An impressive debut' The Times


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Crime & mystery
  • ISBN: 9781472111364

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Thank you to both the publishers and to NetGalley for allowing me to read a copy of this in exchange for an honest review. I can't believe how good it was.Two bodies are found; both male, both teenagers, both white, and funnily enough they both have the same upbringing despite being separate ages. It's not long before the unorthodox Colonel Vaughn De Vries, the protagonist of our story, puts the pieces together and identifies the boys as being two of three that were kidnapped seven years ago. Finally De Vries sees his opportunity to solve the case and bring the perpetrators to justice, no matter what the cost.The absolute best thing about this novel, for me, was the beautiful way in which Mendelson describes the scenery. I believe the setting plays a big part in Mendelson's mind, and I absolutely adore when an author describes the scenery around them in such rich and vivid detail that you couldn't stop picturing it, even if you wanted to. It was so easy to immerse myself in absolutely everything; the characters, the animals, the nature, the architecture. Even the manner in which South Africans were subtly racist was handled and written with care but attention to detail. Honestly it felt like I was right there within the story and I could not stop reading.Despite De Vries having his flaws, and believe me he has a lot of them, you grew to love him and his boisterous ways. A lot of what he said made me giggle or smile, sometimes frown. What he felt, I felt. When he felt a sense of bleakness, so did I. Mendelson creates such a bond with the character through his words that you develop deep feelings for him and just want him to figure everything out. It's as if he's a real person and sometimes you just want to slap him and say "pull yourself together, man!". Overall the entire development of the characters is handled wonderfully and I cannot complain one bit.The plot itself was interesting. You find out the culprit(s) around 2/3 of the way through the book and yet the story doesn't end there. This means that even if you do figure out who was involved, the story wasn't ruined or spoilt in any way. It also made it stand out and created a uniqueness that was refreshing. Before it was revealed, though, I couldn't figure out who was behind everything. I had my suspicions but nothing concrete. Honestly this novel is a complete mystery, through and through, and I could not put it down.The only thing I disliked about this novel is that there are still some loose ends to be tied which I think are quite important. I'm sure that this means there's a sequel in mind (wishful thinking, maybe!) where all of the answers will be revealed. In the mean time, my mind has not stopped trying to figure out everything that went on. Even after the last page is turned, this book resonates with you and keeps you guessing. I'd say that was the mark of a truly wonderful novel.I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It is a true work of art, and it was a pleasure to read.