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An audacious departure for the internationally acclaimed South African novelist--a thriller with all the searing immediacy of today's headlines. Who was Christo Mercer, and why was he brutally stabbed to death in a remote Saharan town? For Robert Poley, an unhappy writer of political thril-lers, the welcome distraction posed by this question has become an obsession. With the mysterious delivery of a laptop computer and a cryptic E-mail message, he finds himself slowly entwined in the vagaries that constituted Mercer's life and death. An illegal-arms trader haunted by his nightmares, his past, and his clandestine involvement with a ruthless rebel-- and with Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine the Great --Mercer lived on the grand stage of history, yet remained obscured by shadows until his seemingly fated demise. Now, piece by piece, in a complex web of social, political, personal, and fictional disclosures, the intricacies of Mercer's troubled psyche begin to reveal a pattern as corrupt as South Africa's in the aftermath of apartheid--years of judicial inquiry, the Truth Commission, and continued social unrest. With alchemical bravura, Mike Nicol turns history into fiction and fiction into history, bringing to allegorical life the haunting story of a murder emblematic of South Africa's recent past.