Like Clockwork

Dark and compelling crime story exposing the underbelly of porn and prostitution in Cape Town
Orford, Margie
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18,50 € *

Author: Margie Orford
Publisher: Oshun Books
Cape Town, 2006
ISBN: 9781770070530
Soft cover, 15x23 cm, 320 pages


When a beautiful young woman is found murdered on the Seapoint promenade, journalist and part-time police profiler, Dr Clare Hart is drawn into the web of a brutal serial killer.

As more bodies are discovered, Clare is forced to re-visit the brutal rape of her twin sister and the gang ties that bind Cape Town’s dark crime rings. Is her investigation into human trafficking linked to the murders or is the killer just playing a sick game with her?

Like Clockwork is a dark and compelling crime story which exposes the very real underbelly of porn and prostitution in the Mother City.

About the Author:

Margie Orford is an award winning journalist, writer, photographer and film director. Her first book was published in 1996. In 1999 she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and went to New York for two years. While she was there she continued work on a major academic book, Women Writing Africa, the Southern Volume. This groundbreaking archival retrieval project has been widely reviewed – and received a glowing review by English novelist Hilary Mantel in the New York Review of Books in February of 2005.

Media Reviews:

Citizen Vibe (Lezl van Veuren):
„Like Clockwork is filled with suspense and drama. Margie Orford fans and real suspense lovers will enjoy this one!“


The man watches the cigarette burning between the fingers of his right hand. The cuff of his silk shirt strains against his lean wrist, the cuff link glinting in the artificial light. Although the room is hidden at the centre of the house - a warren of rooms and passages - he hears the thud-thud of slammed car doors in the garage.

He raises his head - close cropped, scarred in places - and listens. He waits. He knows how long. Then he unwinds himself from the leather chair. He walks to the door that slides open at a touch. This room and its records are not visible from anywhere. No one ever enters it.

Two strides take him to the room where they have brought the new consignment. She looks at him, terrified. He finds this provocative. He holds out his hand to the girl. Conditioned to politeness, confused, she gives him hers. He looks at it. Then he turns the palm - secret, pink - upwards. He looks into her eyes and smiles. He stubs the cigarette out in her hand.

‘Welcome,’ he says.
The girl watches her heart line, curving round the plump mound of her thumb, bum away. Her sharp, shocked intake of breath breaks the silence.
‘What’s your name?’ he murmurs, smoothing her long hair behind her ear.
‘I want to go home,’ she whispers. ‘Please.’

The man strokes the rounded chin, her soft throat. Then he turns and walks back to his office. He is used to power, there is no need to swagger. He knows that the girl will not take her eyes off him. He punches a number into his phone. The call is picked up at once.

‘I have a little something for you. Fresh delivery. No, no other takers as yet.’ He laughs, turning to watch as the girl is taken out, before ending the call.

Many hours later the girl sits huddled in the comer of a room, unaware of the unblinking eye of the camera watching her. She is alone, knees pulled tight into her body. The blanket - rough, filthy - is wrapped around her. Her clothes are gone. She shivers, cradling her hand in her lap, the fingers trying to find a way to lie that will not hurt the burnt pulp at the heart of her palm.

Her skin tattooed with the sensation of clawing hands, bruised from the moments (brief) of her resistance. She hugs her knees. The effort makes her whimper. She cringes at the sound, dropping her head, unable to think of a way of surviving. She is too filled with hatred to find a way to die. After a long time she lifts her head.

Something that the camera does not see: to survive, she thinks of ways of killing. The door opens. ‘Dinner, Sir,’ announces the maid, transfixed by the image on the screen.
A finger on the remote and the bruised girl vanishes.

‘Thank you, says the host. He turns to his guests. ‘This way, gentlemen.’ The maid gathers glasses and ashtrays after they leave the room. She switches off the lights and closes the door and goes downstairs to help serve the meal.


It is old Harry Rabinowitz, out for an early morning walk, who finds the first body. Her throat is precisely, meticulously sliced through. But that is not the first thing he notices. She is spread-eagled on the boulevard in full view of anyone who cares to look.

Her face is childish in death, dark hair rippling in the breeze. Blood, pooled and dried in the corners of her eyes, streaks her right cheek like tears. Her exposed breasts gesture towards a future womanhood. One slender arm is lifted straight above her head; the fingers of the left hand extended like a supplicant’s. The right hand is bound with blue rope, the fingers clenched, rests on her hip.

A bouquet - like a bride’s - has been placed next to her. In the ensuing jostle of people approaching then recoiling, the flowers are trampled, becoming part of the gutter debris. The old man will forget to tell the police it was there.

He stops in shock next to the dead girl. The pounding of his heart deafens him. Darkness gathers in the periphery of his vision. He turns away from her and leans on the solid mass of the sea wall, gulping in the cold morning fog. A group of old women are approaching. He lifts his arm in a feeble effort to summon help. The women wave back. It is only when they are close to him that he can get them to stop waving and look at the dead girl. They flock around the body. Ruby Cohen recognises Harry and scurries over to take his arm.

‘You look terrible Harry. Come and sit down.’ The woman leads him to an orange bench. He sits, waiting for his heart to quieten, grateful to her for thinking of him. The woman makes sure that he is settled before she returns to her friends.

‘You call the ambulance,’ Ruby orders. ‘I’m going to ask Dr Hart for help. There’s her apartment next to the lighthouse.’ Harry watches her stride off officiously. More people arrive. Some, he notices, gag at the sight of the dead girl. Harry pulls his coat close. When I’m not so cold, when I regain my strength, thinks Harry, I’ll cover her. […]