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South Africa

80 Strand St. #112
Cape Town, RSA 8001
+2772 357 1234


Piercing television promises peak suspense

I need to confess two things: I’ve always thought the idea of using alcohol as a crutch was a cliché, especially in detective stories. The second and, as an avid Afrikaans reader, more embarrassing one: I’ve never read any Deon Meyer novels other than his debut. Why? Probably because I know it features a detective with a drinking problem.

Having some idea of who Bennie Griessel is (or Benny, as he is known in the English version), I wasn’t surprised to see him reach for his hip flask more than once in the first 10 minutes of Devil’s Peak, only to pass out and wake up on his lawn; the camera cleverly tilted to reveal Table Mountain’s famous left peak. But in the next scene, the detective arrives at his office, takes a swig from a bottle of mouthwash, and is told he’s not very clever. “How many people do you know who swallow their mouthwash?” his superior asks him. I fully expected the cliché to continue, but here’s the crazy thing: By the end of the first episode, I was the one in need of a drink to take the edge off. And having finished all five episodes back-to-back, I came to the realisation that I really, really need to read Deon Meyer.

Devil’s Peak, the translation of Infanta where Griessel is introduced, is the latest of Meyer’s best-selling books to make its way to our screens. In a similar fashion as 2019’s Trackers, also produced by M-Net, Devil’s Peak is masterfully split into five 50-minute episodes. Two stories are told: Thobela Mpayipheli (played by Sisanda Henna) seeks justice for the murder of his adopted son, while star detective Benny Griessel (Hilton Pelser) tries to get to the bottom of savage revenge killings haltering his investigation into crime boss Madison Madikiza, portrayed by Tshamano Sebe. A third story commences in the third episode: Christine van Rooyen (Tarryn Wyngaard), a Cape Town escort, becomes entangled with powerful businessman Anton Heidt (skilfully and creepily brought to life by Albert Pretorius) and struggles to loosen his grip on her and her family. If this plot synopsis seems short, know that it is intentionally vague: There is joy in following the leads with Griessel and discovering the many twists with Mpayipheli and Van Rooyen as their tales intertwine and unfold.

The first three episodes all add relatable characters, interesting dynamics, and exciting conflict. By episode four, Devil’s Peak had my nerves firmly in hand. Despite the slight drop in pace after the climax in the final episode and some predictable undercurrents (alcohol abuse is bad, the SAPD is corrupt, harming children is unforgivable), Devil’s Peak makes for piercing television. If Deon Meyer gives his readers pageturners, director Jozua Malherbe and creator Matthew Orton accomplish something similar: they offer a tense, binge worthy series.

The depiction of quick graphic violence is carefully included to contrast scenes of innocence and frustration. We see a young boy told to eat his berries and hug his mother before he is allowed outside to play; later, that same mother is protesting at the SAPS headquarters for their failure to protect these children. Frustration is rife within the SAPS too, and I began to wonder if Griessel keeps some “mouthwash” in his desk drawer because of his cases, or his colleagues?

Contrast is further made visible in the many aerial shots we glimpse between scenes: the lavish greens of Constantia are juxtaposed with Langa’s bare browns; a bird’s eye view of shady security estates suddenly shifts to shimmering shacks. Tying together city and farmland, suburb and township is Devil’s Peak. At times this landmark features prominently, at others it is subtly shown in the background, but the titular peak is an ever-present reminder of the stark reality that life in Cape Town is beautiful, yet brutal.

The seriousness of the show’s subject matter is balanced by its clever writing. I especially enjoyed lighter references to politics (”I don’t care if your family has more money than the Guptas!”) and pop culture: “Jissis. Some Spider-Man shit?” Griessel asks at a murder scene in a high-rise apartment on Cape Town’s foreshore. Later, while speeding to another scene with a colleague, he says “Do you think you’re Vin Diesel or some shit?”.

The good acting, beautiful cinematography, and excellent use of music should be noted too. Hilton offers a believable Benny and is supported by a clearly talented cast. Even the young actors surprised me. Seeing Soli Philander play the role of Princess, a drag queen hiding more than just her manliness, was bliss. Clever cinematic depictions of Benny’s internal struggles with addiction and withdrawal pull the viewer into his experience, while Tim Phillips’ score adds suspense to already tense scenes. The haunting rendition of Ingrid Jonker’s poem “Korreltjie sand” by Inge Beckman is surely something I’ll be adding to my playlist.

I can’t comment on the adaptation from book to screenplay, but at its best, Devil’s Peak as a series does what I believe all art should do: it allows us an experience that also demands us to ask difficult questions. I kept wondering about the essence of righteousness. Is justice ever achievable? What about the nature of being good and bad? These are themes I found particularly compelling. At one point, Griessel asks his partner, Mbali Kaleni (Masasa Mbangeni), how she is able to reconcile her faith with the truly terrible things these detectives face. “It keeps me going. Even in darkness, I remember there’s still light. That there’s some good even in the worst of us.” When asked what keeps him going, Griessel gives a one word answer: Brandy. And after this first c(h)ase with detective Griessel, I don’t blame him.

This series offers a wonderful, if brief, escape from life through its realistic and suspenseful depiction of some lives in the shadow of Devil’s Peak. It asks us to question many devils in the process, and even though it reminds us that life in South Africa is far from idyllic, it tells us that – to quote from the script again – “helping others with their pain is the only balm that works”.

Rating Scores

  • Directing 100% 100%
  • Acting 80% 80%
  • Screenwriting 100% 100%
  • Music 100% 100%
  • Editing 100% 100%
  • Sound 100% 100%
  • Cinematography 100% 100%
  • Visual Effects 100% 100%
  • Makeup & Hair 80% 80%
  • Costume Design 80% 80%
  • Production Design 100% 100%

Production Information

Running Time

60 min


Amy Jephta, Deon Meyer, Matthew Orton

Producer & Director

Jan du Plessis | Jozua Malherbe

Production Company

Mnet, Expanded Media & Lookout Point

Age Restriction

18, L P V (FPB)


Hilton Pelser, Sisanda Henna, Shamilla Miller, Masasa Mbangeni, Tarryn Wyngaard, Litha Bam, Gérard Rudolf, Albert Pretorius



Streamer's Website

Stephan Meyer

Stephan Meyer

Writer, Journalist & Copywriter

Stephan Meyer is a copywriter and photographer from Cape Town. With a background in theatre and language, he is passionate about art, stories, and people. If he isn’t shooting people (in a good way) or writing about the experience, you’ll catch him playing PlayStation, playing with his cats, or playing the fool.



+2772 123 4567


80 Strand St. #112, Cape Town, RSA 8001

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