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By Jassy MacKenzie
Soho Crime, 2010 ($25.00)
Reviewed by Katherine Petersen
After fleeing Johannesburg 10 years ago following the death of her police commissioner father, private investigator Jade de Jong has returned with plans to avenge his death. Police Superintendent David Patel, a friend and her fatherís former assistant, has also asked for her help in solving the death of Annette Botha who was gunned down after leaving her car to open a broken electronic gate by hand. Through a colleague Jade finds out Annette recently had hired a private detective, and when he also turns up dead and the colleague is beaten and robbed, it seems Annetteís death might be more than a random car jacking gone awry. The police arrest Annetteís ex-husband, but Jade canít believe heís the killer when he has a hard time finding a light for his cigarettes, and more often than not ends up just holding them unlit. Jade has her hands full trying to prove his innocence and track down the real killer. She finds a lead when she finds the PIís record of Annetteís case in his car. But tracing Ellie Myers, the woman Annette wanted to find, will lead to a web of intrigue and deception.
Along with working on the case, Jade seeks out her gangster friend Robbie for a weapon and secures his help for killing one of the men who started the plans for her fatherís death in motion 10 years ago. Sometimes in South Africa, individuals take the law into their own hands when things donít go their way, making sure bribes and death work where the system doesnít. Her suspect in this villainy is scheduled for release from prison in two days. But after getting a glimpse of the man, she questions her motives and ideals. Moreover, she feels like sheís betraying David, but she canít confess her dark secrets either.
Jassy Mackenzie has created a fabulous mystery in RANDOM VIOLENCE that will keep readers guessing to the end. This book is the first in a series, and I for one, hope Jade has a long career. Mackenzie has given her protagonist depth with a sketchy past, intentions for revenge and growing feelings for David. Sheís tough, fallible, eats healthy some of the time, takes risks, makes mistakes, questions herself, gets jealous and works hard. In essence, sheís very human, easy to like and easy to relate to.
Mackenzie paints a vivid, if a bit grim picture of Johannesburg with those people who can afford it living behind security gates, high walls and electric fences in an attempt to avoid the increasing random violence. Mackenzie speaks from experience of the car jacking which happened to her outside her home. Police bribes, aggressive drivers and her use of South African slang help bring the environment to life as well. A sparing use of flashbacks introduces the reader to Jadeís Father as well and gives us an idea of her upbringing. The story progresses at a steady pace, giving the reader time to understand whatís going on as well as get to know the characters, Johannesburg and how it all fits together. Itís an ingenious and complex plot that I hope never happens in real life. Iím looking forward to Jadeís next investigation in STOLEN LIES.
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