Thursday, May 20, 2010

Debut Crime Fiction by Jassy Mackenzie: RANDOM VIOLENCE

Soho Crime has done it again: brought us a crime fiction author from far away and made us sit up and pay attention. Jassy Mackenzie's debut is RANDOM VIOLENCE, set in South Africa, powerful, dark, and well worth the reading.

Private investigator Jade de Jong is back in Johannesburg, where razor-wired fences, security systems, and private guards are part of middle-class life, thanks to the extremes of poverty and violence in the city. Corruption is about as common as you'd expect, and fueled by the city's constant growth and the profits to be made (although, as usual, "it takes money to make money"). Jade is back to witness the end of a case she'd been part of, a decade before, but that's her private knowledge. On the surface, she's simply signing up to help an old friend, Superintendent David Patel, who used to work for Jade's policeman father. And the random acts of violence that have overwhelmed David's office have no apparent connection with each other -- or with Jade.

Yet from the moment she gets home, Jade realizes she's being watched, and violence seems drawn to her. Actually, it's more that she seeks violence, with some determination:
Jade walked back and climbed into her car. Behind her, she heard the man revving his engine in triumph. She pushed in the clutch. Then she popped her car into reverse and hit the accelerator.
Her car shot backwards. There was only room for it to travel a few feet before her rear bumper collided with the front bumper of the luxury car behind her. It was a small impact. She barely felt it. But for him, it was more serious. Because his airbag deployed.
Looking in the rearview mirror, she saw his body whiplash backwards as the powerful bag shoved him out of the way, and then slump forwards again as the bag deflated. His expensive dark glasses fell out of the window and shattered on the tarmac. [ . . . ] Jade put her car into first gear and drove on.
Mackenzie paints a bold portrait of a woman whose unfinished business can endanger any goodness left in her life. Whether Jade can help David depends on whether she can stay alive. In Mackenzie's hands, there's doubt at every step, risk in every decision, and a vivid sense of evil lurking in the past, present, and future. There's no feel of a "first book" here -- this Rhodesian-born South African pounds the pages with skill and vigor. I'm delighted to know that Soho often nurtures sequences of books from its authors; I want to read more Jade de Jong.

PS - In my opinion, the book jacket is awful. Don't sweat it -- go for the book instead.

No comments: