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We are Not Such Things


We are not such things by Justine van der Leun

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We Are Not Such Things

Justin van der Leun

ISBN 9780008191078

A ‘Making A Murderer’ set in South Africa - a gripping true-crime story of murder and the justice system in the shadow of apartheid. 

In 1993, in the final, fiery days of apartheid, a 26-year-old white American activist called Amy Biehl was murdered by a group of young black men in a township near Cape Town. Four men were tried and convicted of the murder and sentenced to eighteen years in prison. A few years later they had been freed. Two of the men were subsequently employed by Amy’s parents to work at a charity set up in her memory. The men grew close to the Biehls. They called them ‘Grandmother’ and ‘Grandfather’.

Justine van der Leun, an American writer living in South Africa, set out to tell this twenty-year story, but as she delved into the case, the prevailing narrative started to unravel. Why didn’t the eyewitness reports agree on who killed Amy Biehl? Were the men convicted of the crime actually responsible? And could it be that another violent crime committed on the same day, in the very same area, was connected to the murder of Amy Biehl?
We Are Not Such Things is the result of Justine van der Leun’s four years investigating this strange, knotted tale of injustice, hatred, forgiveness and reconciliation. It is a gripping journey through the bizarre twists and turns of this case and its aftermath - and a lucid, eye-opening account of life today in a society still fractured and haunted by apartheid.


The Author

Justine van der Leun has written about South Africa for Harper's and the Guardian. She lived in Cape Town from 2011 to 2013 and now lives in Brooklyn, New York.





Reviews, News & Interviews:

Timely . . . gripping, explosive . . . the kind of obsessive forensic investigation - of the clues, and into the soul of society - that is the legacy of highbrow sleuths from Truman Capote to Janet Malcolm. The New York Times Book Review 

With a strong voice and exact vocabulary, Van Der Leun expertly juxtaposes the lives of white elites with the grim reality of the black township. Van Der Leun succeeds in telling a complex, nuanced, and perhaps ultimately unknowable story that will captivate all readers. Publishers Weekly

Van der Leun’s hard-nosed reconstruction of an alternative narrative for the events of that afternoon raises troubling, and still pertinent, questions about the deals that sometimes have to be struck by former enemies when faced with the exigencies of nation-building. 

Elizabeth Lowry, The Guardian