Tuesday, January 04, 2011
Jassy Mackenzie's second Jade de Jong (South African Noir)
I liked the first Jade de Jong novel by Jassy Mackenzie, and the second one, Stolen Lives, is even better. The first half of the novel dragged me along relentlessly. There's a plot line that in the second half seems a bit tacked on (though it leads to a twisty and cliff-hanger-y ending) dealing with a character who could be very interesting but isn't fully developed—but overall the novel (and that second half) are very good indeed.
Jade, having returned (in the first novel, Random Violence) to her native Johannesburg to bring her private detective business there—as well as to a) inflict some revenge and b) reestablish contact with the object of her (mostly unrequited) passion, detective David Patel of the J-burg police. Patel refers a client to Jade thinking that it's just a woman in need of straightforward bodyguarding, after her husband has disappeared, but the case becomes complicated when the Jade and the client are shot at and later the husband is discovered nearly dead from extreme torture and their daughter is found to be missing. Then David's son, who has been living with his estranged wife, is kidnapped...
There is a parallel case developing in England, concerning brothels and human trafficking, which ties into Jade's case and links to a deadly and mysterious character at the fringes of both: an African man whom we glimpse in a pawn shop and other locales in several chapters interspersed with the English plot and Jade's case. The threads come together in an unexpected way, forcing the reader to reassess his or her opinion about the characters. And Jade herself is very interesting: we follow not only her professional exploits but also her troubled relationship with David and a discovery about herself and her heritage that she makes in connection with her current case.
The novel offers once again a dynamic glimpse of post-Apartheid South Africa in all its grime and glory, as well as thematic consideration of violence and its roots in culture (and perhaps genetics), marriage, and desire: it's among the best of the substantial crop of South African crime fiction now becoming available.