Friday, April 20, 2012

Jassy Mackenzie: New Crime Fiction in South Africa

With Soho Crime's help, Americans are catching up on the South African crime novels of Jassy Mackenzie. Random Violence came out in 2008, My Brother's Keeper in 2009, Stolen Lives in 2010 -- and now, hurrah, we get THE FALLEN.

This time, private investigator Jade de Jong isn't working in the cramped urban tension of Johannesburg. Instead, she's booked a vacation trip to St. Lucia, where she hopes her boyfriend, David, a police superintendent, will relax with her and rebuild their relationship -- which has been rough, thanks to the presence in Jade's life of a former partner in crime who wants her to apply her security skills to his own work instead. But David on arrival is clearly holding Jade at arm's length, for reasons that she can't fight. And then, off balance as she is, she's suddenly caught up in the murder of the resort's scuba-diving instructor. And, typical of Jade, she's got to try to sort things out, no matter the danger.

But ... it's complicated. Well, sorting out a well-executed murder usually is complex, because there's motive, means, opportunity, and all of those may be hidden at first. The attractive instructor, Monique, doesn't seem like someone who'd get into trouble that kills her, and violently. And what about the man Jade's just had sex with, trying to escape her despair over David? Is he involved? There's blood all over his room, isn't there? And Craig's emotionally off balance, too, after the horrific death of his father in a terrible crash.

Also complicating the story is Jade's effort to pay homage at her own mother's grave in the nearby industrial town, the major port of Richards Bay. Her mother's stone isn't at the cemetery ... and the retired nurse from the hospital is reacting oddly to Jade's visit:
"I'm Elise de Jong's daughter. You looked after her at the hospital."

When Mrs. Koekemoer turned to stare at Jade, it as like a light had suddenly gone on behind her eyes.

"You are so like your mother, my dear. I'd forgotten how she looked, but seeing you brings it all back."

Jade took a deep breath. She realised her hands were clenched so hard her nails were just about piercing her palms. "You remember her well?" she asked. ... "I don't even know where she's buried."

The old woman's eyes widened. "That's a secret, my dear. I'm not allowed to tell."
The deeper Jade dives into one investigation, the more the other one also threatens to drown her.

This is a great series, and I enjoyed the change of venue, the insight into another part of South Africa, where the gulfs of rich and poor, white and black, criminal and victim, find new ways of haunting this nation's people. I'd walk a long, long ways to get the next Jade de Jong book from Jassy Mackenzie.

Thanks, Soho Crime, for bringing it to the bookstores nearby.

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