In the Shadows

A taut and unsparing novel about a community plagued by violence, drugs, corruption, and prejudice—but where love and justice prevail. (Translated into English from the original Kaaps).

PRINT VERSION Buy the print version (hard copy) from Modjaji Books directly      



August 2024


Fiction, novel





In the Shadows

A taut and unsparing novel about a community plagued by violence, drugs, corruption, and prejudice—but where love and justice prevail.

The unidentifiable remains of a body are discovered in a field in Shadow Heights, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa. Ley, the youngest detective at her precinct, is assigned the case. Soon after, Ley receives a phone call saying that Carl, a friend struggling with a meth addiction, has gone missing after being linked to the Drug King of Shadow Heights. Meanwhile, a local church group believe they are cleansing the area by burning sinners, starting with homosexuals.

The search for Carl leads the reader through the vibrant lives of the residents of Shadow Heights to experience the problems plaguing the neighbourhood but also to feel the love and acceptance found among friends and family in the shadows of everyday life. A pioneering work of fiction in which the dispossessed tell their own stories, In the Shadows is a haunting yet hopeful novel that wrestles with the demons of a community where lives intersect through ruthless brutality, but the bonds between people lead to justice being done.


The English edition was translated from Kaaps by the author herself, and the translation was funded by PEN Afrikaans. The English edition will be published by House of Anansi in Canada later in 2024.

Olivia M. Coetzee

Olivia M. Coetzee grew up in Electric City, a suburb in Eerste Rivier, Cape Town, South Africa. She currently lives in Ceres, Western Cape. Olivia has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Cape Town. She’s written extensively for online platforms like Litnet, has translated parts of the Bible and various fairy tales into Kaaps. Through her current and future work, she hopes to inspire and challenge the belief that Kaaps should only be heard and not read. Her debut novel written in Kaaps, Innie Shadows was published in 2019 by Modjaji Books.

Olivia M. Coetzee's author page

“Groundbreaking and unique, character-driven crime fiction written in my favourite dialect. I was mesmerized.” Deon Meyer

“Olivia M. Coetzee’s swift-moving, tautly constructed novel about the inhabitants of the Shadows is suspenseful, surprising, and, in the end, devastating.” Méira Cook, author of The Full Catastrophe

“Fresh, searing, gritty, richly vivid, and fearless, Innie Shadows is not afraid to speak its truth. Innie Shadows will take you deep into a world ruled by desire, greed, lust, and the raw destruction of all that is vulnerable, precious, and innocent. But there is love, hope, joy, and rebirth. As a character in the book says, ‘And you say there’s nothing beautiful here.’ There most certainly is.” Lisa de Nikolits, author of Everything You Dream is Real, Rotten Peaches, and The Witchdoctor’s Bones

“A searing crime novel, a spellbinding story of queer desire, friendship and resilience, and a trailblazing work of fiction, Innie Shadows is an authentic, unsentimental, fearless achievement. Even in its darkest moments, it brims with life.” Kathy Friedman, author of All the Shining People

The characters sound like real people from the Cape Flats and live in the shadow of recognizable problems such as drug addiction, domestic violence, poverty and sex crimes. However, it is also a story about new freedoms — sensitively told in a new way, in a new kind of voice.
Dr Sonja Loots, (author and lecturer in Afrikaans and Nederlands)

“Olivia M. Coetzee crafts a new language to bring to life stories of dispossession from those left behind in the transition to democracy. Her prose is taut, unsparing and unsentimental. It wrestles with the demons of one community overcome with the social ills of drugs, bigotry and homophobia, where lives intersect through ruthless brutality. This haunting novel will stay with the reader long after the final page is turned. A pioneering work of fiction in which the dispossessed are finally telling their own stories.” Barbara Boswell, author of Grace, a novel and The Comrade’s Wife



Titles featuring this author