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Who Killed Piet Barol?

A Book of the Year in The Times, The Observer and The Mail on Sunday

A Book of the Year on and

Pretender Piet Barol and singer Stacey Meadows are making a splash in colonial Cape Town but are running out of cash. With creditors at their heels, their furniture business is imploding and only a major win will save them. So Piet enlists two Xhosa men to lead him into the magical forest of Gwadana in search of precious wood.

Meanwhile the Natives Land Act has just abolished property rights for the majority of black South Africans, and whole families have been ripped apart. Piet’s charm and appetite for risk lead him far beyond the privileged white world to a land and community that sees him with new eyes.

A novel about the truth in magic and the enduring consequences of lies, Who Killed Piet Barol? is published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson in the UK (September 2016) and by Alfred A. Knopf in the US (January 2016).

Who Killed Piet Barol?

UK edition

Who Killed Piet Barol?

US edition


  • "One of the Best Books of the Year" The Times, The Observer, The Mail on Sunday,,
  • “This is a highly original book. Part magic realism, part fable, part history and wholly engrossing.” The Times, Books of the Year
  • “Exquisite and gripping.” Observer, Books of the Year
  • “A gorgeous treat of a novel, full of contradictions and subtleties. The complicated love-hate, race-stained relationship between Piet and Luvo and Ntsina is worth the cover price alone.” The Times, Book of the Month
  • “A seemingly playful lie spirals into an explosion of greed, lust and ruthless ambition… Riveting.” The Times, Book of the Year
  • “In elegant, sensuous prose … Mason imbues the forest with life, taking readers inside the psyche of each tree, animal, or insect… Mason’s previous novels have been long-listed for the IMPAC, Sunday Times Literary, and Lambda Literary awards. This profoundly tragic tale, in which colonialism battles tribal customs, and divisions of race and class sow distrust, should put him over the top.” Library Journal, Starred Review
  • “The novel, piercing in its perceptions of South African history and the people whose lives were affected by the 1913 Natives Land Act, and lavishly descriptive of a country rich in culture and wildly lovely, subtly captures the reader’s heart. Then breaks it. With well-drawn, compelling characterization; a frank and refreshing sensuality that permeates every aspect of life; and a range of complexity surprising for the book’s short length, the novel turns the question posed by the title into a philosophical theme. Luminously reminiscent of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958) and recalling the disastrous culture clash of Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible (1998).” Booklist, Starred Review
  • “With echoes of Paul Theroux’s Mosquito Coast, Mason unspools a story rich in detail and populated with deeply flawed characters whose lives intersect in the once-pristine forest that inspires acts sacred and profane. Mason handles multiple story lines with the élan of a seasoned raconteur.” Publishers Weekly
  • “Mason continues to earn his reputation with exquisitely crafted sentences and a dizzying knack for storytelling.” Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
  • “This is one of the finest novels I have read for many years. It has at its centre truth and beautiful prose: it doesn’t get much better than that.” Cape Times
  • “A perfect example of what makes Mason such a superb writer; his novels tell the rare and profound kind of truth that only stellar fiction can.” Pretoria News
  • “Mason elegantly rotates between characters (and animals) with wisdom, pathos and real humour, gently but thoroughly exploring race and identity at a moment of huge political turmoil: a grand success, entirely on its own terms, and a deceptively profound achievement.” Press Association
  • “A triumph of a novel.  It’s a book that you can’t help being totally caught up in…powerfully  evocative and wholly absorbing.  You can smell and taste the forest as you are led on an extraordinary journey, with the prose providing an almost filmic experience. The detail, the colour, the passion – and the story!  At a time of change and tumult in Europe the pure escapism of living through a novel about upheaval and drama in a different age is somehow reassuring.
  • Human passions, the lust for power and status, and the inevitable fallibilities of man and beast are drawn with exquisite detail.  It’s a book that works on many, many levels, and lingers with you gently for many, many days after you reach its extraordinary end…” Gill Penlington, Director of News, CNN
  • “Richard Mason's is a distinctive voice in British fiction. His gripping prose and psychological insight has marked him out as one of the outstanding writers of his generation.  I wanted to re-reread it immediately.” Geordie Greig, Editor, Mail on Sunday
  • "A stunning tour de force that will leave you gripped, moved and inspired. A richly atmospheric historical novel that says much about the way we live now, Who Killed Piet Barol? is a book to read again and again: a compelling story written in luminous prose with vividly-realised characters. This is a book by a serious writer at the height of his powers." Alex Preston
  • “Magic… [Who Killed Piet Barol? ventures] far beyond the paths of the conventional novel … Be beguiled.” William Boyd, Mail on Sunday

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