We Are Not Such Things: Murder. Justice. the Search for Truth.

Justine Van der Leun

We Are Not Such Things: Murder. Justice. the Search for Truth.
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We Are Not Such Things: Murder. Justice. the Search for Truth.

Justine Van der Leun

A `Making A Murderer' set in South Africa - a gripping true-crime story of murder and the justice system in the shadow of apartheidIn 1993 a young white American activist called Amy Biehl was brutally murdered by a group of men in a township near Cape Town. A few years later, two of the convicted murderers were working with Amy’s parents at a charity set up in her memory.

After the horrors of apartheid, hope and reconciliation had triumphed.

It’s an inspiring story. But is it just that - a story?


In the final days of apartheid a young American student, Amy Biehl, was murdered by a black mob in one of Cape Town’s townships. Three young men were convicted of her murder but the case was a strange one that was full of contradictions. Van der Leun spent four years trying to piece together the mystery, hunting out all the protagonists. In a selfless act Amy’s parents embraced the new South Africa, setting up a Foundation to support young people in the townships and even employing two of the men convicted of Amy’s murder after they were released under the amnesty of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The story mirrors the trajectory of post-Apartheid South Africa: from the high hopes of Mandela’s Rainbow Nation to the current malaise of the ANC.

Like Katherine Boo’s award-winning Behind the Beautiful Forevers, We Are Not Such Things immerses us in the lives of ordinary locals – in this instance the lives of black South Africans. It’s one of the most powerful books I’ve read this year.

Mark Rubbo is the Managing Director of Readings.

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