Steal a Few Cents

Steal a Few Cents

Steal a few cents and they put you in jail. Steal a few million and they put you in charge.


Mpho Mamela, a young accountant at a coal mine in the Middelburg coalfields of South Africa is killed one night when he gets caught in the rollers of a conveyor belt. He is mangled beyond recognition. There will be an official State enquiry into his death, by the Inspectorate of Mining. Stephen Wakefield, the in-house lawyer and a director of the company, begins preparing for the enquiry, but he struggles to understand what happened - Mamela should not have been anywhere near the place he was killed.

Bit by bit, Stephen’s investigation uncovers a story far removed from a simple workplace accident. A web of deception and massive fraud is unveiled; fraud perpetrated by a person who publicly insists on high standards of morality and honesty. It becomes clear to Stephen that Mamela had tried to blackmail the guilty party to help his lover, who is in prison for attempting to steal a trifling amount from the mining company.

When the killer learns that his actions are about to be exposed, Stephen realises that his own life is now in danger...


Steal a Few Cents is a well-paced, sophisticated whodunit that can also lay claim to being a literary novel. Its strong sense of place occasionally comes across as downright lyrical. Although this is not first and foremost a character-driven novel, Smith does a marvelous job of fleshing out the principals, by giving them authentic dialogue and also by putting them in confrontations where they show what they’re made of. I was not instantly taken with chief protagonist Stephen, but came over to his side during a lovely scene where he quietly and believably shuts down a bullying bureaucrat. Smith deftly gives his hero adversaries who deserve comeuppance. Justice is particularly sweet as served up by the non-flashy sexagenarian Stephen. ~ Melanie Forde, NetGalley

I wasn't sure what to expect at first because the book had a demure start but I thoroughly enjoyed this selection. The tone of the book made it an even more special experience - I really felt as though I was investigating with the characters. This was such a pleasant, fulfilling read. ~ Brandi Welch, NetGalley

In Rupert Smith's addictive new book, the mining magnates of old may have gone, but the cowboy antics of the industry haven't. Smith is suitably modest when describing his long involvement with mining - having been party to some of the most interesting post-apartheid deals, has also meant that he witnessed some of the shenanigans which goes with running mines in South Africa. It makes him uniquely placed to write a fast-paced thriller - but not one so fast paced that loses its balance of plot development and attention to detail. Unputdownable! ~ Kalim Rajab, writer and corporate executive based in Johannesburg

"Steal a few Cents is a fast-paced thriller of coal mining and corruption - exciting and immediate. Mining in South Africa is all too much like this. " Hulme Scholes is a South African mining lawyer, and a director of Malan Scholes Attorneys, Johannesburg. The firm is consulted by a wide spread of South African and international mining companies. ~ Hulme Scholes

“Fast-paced, tightly written, and authentic , Steal a Few Cents spins an all too convincing thriller out of a South African setting of veld, mining and corruption.” Tim Butcher , author of Blood River, Chasing the Devil, and The Trigger ~ Tim Butcher

"Rupert Smith knows the South African coal mining industry intimately, and it shows in this riveting murder mystery. From the mines of Emalahleni to the boardrooms and suburbs of Johannesburg, each scene and character rings true. A fabulous read!" Paul Theron, CEO of Vestact Asset Management in Johannesburg; and is a television presenter. ~ Paul Theron

“An intriguing mystery of today’s South Africa, where the Rainbow Nation comes face to face with corruption and greed. The writing crackles with authenticity and sense of place. A splendid addition to new local writing” Steve Davies is the owner and director of Bay Books. He has been a reviewer and in the book trade for decades. ~ Steve Davies

“You learn a lot about countries (and industries) from novels. Rupert Smith does not disappoint with his latest.” Bobby Godsell is the former CEO of AngloGold Ltd, one of the biggest gold mining companies in the world; and the former Chairman of Optimum Coal Holdings Ltd, a listed coal mining company in South Africa. Bobby spent a lifetime in the South African mining industry. ~ Bobby Godsell

Rupert Smith
Rupert Smith Rupert is 58, a retired attorney, living in Johannesburg, South Africa. His B.A degree at Wits University in Johannesburg was in languages...
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