As Jade steps into what ought to be an ordinary investigation of a killing at a cheap motel, she finds herself drawn to a man she's supposed to be following and reporting on -- she's been hired by Ryan Gillespie, who works at a nuclear research station where there's been a sabotage attempt, with more to follow. In classic South African layering, Jade soon realizes there are at least two views of the research station: those of the powerful men who manipulate it, and those of the workers, some of whom are poisoned by their labors. Sbusiso and his cousin Shadrack are among the victims of the business, and Shadrack is dying -- but clinging to life through the virtue of a traditional remedy, a plant whose seeds he values highly.
So it is that we have both bad seeds -- those of crime and power -- and good ones. As Jade struggles to sort out which of the people in the case belong with which side, she's also grieving for a personal loss, that of her married boyfriend who had seemed about to bind himself to Jade instead:
One mistake on David's part was all it had taken.Jade's interior struggles can't distract her from pursuing the tangled case in front of her, though. Who really benefits from sabotage when nuclear materials are involved? Who faces the worst risks?
He'd been planning to leave his wife, Naisha, but hadn't stopped sleeping with her. Now she was pregnant, and Jade was one of the few people who knew that the baby probably wasn't David's. ... Worst of all, despite the promises she'd made herself, she couldn't tell him.
Because -- and this hurt her the most -- he would be happier if he never knew.
I enjoyed every page of this tangled and twisting plot. No need to read the earlier books, although you may want to catch up -- this one stands well on its own. (This is Mackenzie's fifth, via Soho Crime; I especially liked The Fallen.) Good to explore South African life through Mackenzie's stories and insight, one of the big pluses of international crime fiction.
PS: Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.