Sunday, April 28, 2013

Random Violence by Jassy Mackenzie

I have Jassy's latest Jade de Jong crime thriller, Pale Horses, on order so it is about time I review the first three before it gets here. This review was posted earlier on a different blog. I am reposting it here, with some tweaks, for continuity with the next three reviews.

Random Violence is Jassy Mackenzie's first U.S. publication and the first in the Jade de Jong investigations series.

Private investigator Jade de Jong left South Africa immediately after the funeral of her father, the police commissioner in Johannesburg. Something she did made it expedient to leave for a while. Unfinished business brings her back, ten years later.

When Jade arrives back in Jo'burg from her latest job in the UK, Superintendent David Patel, a friend and secret crush who worked for her father, asks her to assist in the investigation of a woman who was shot and killed outside the gates to her house. Jade isn't a licensed PI at this point so her role is to interview. As Jade begins collecting details about the dead woman, she finds that there are missing pieces and some pieces don't seem to fit. Like all good PIs, Jade is good at finding patterns.   What begins to emerge is that there is a psychopath at work and Jade and the psycho are on a collision course.

Jade de Jong is a welcome addition to the P.I. genre. She's hard-boiled, exercising a moral flexibility when the situation demands it but not so hard-boiled that she is without human feelings. She is definitely from the school of private investigators who believe justice is not always served by the law; sometimes it comes from the barrel of a gun.

Readers who like a strong sense of location in their crime fiction (and I'm one) won't be disappointed with the setting or the way Mackenzie weaves in post-apartheid social and cultural adjustments as well as South Africa's extraordinarily violent crime problem. Random Violence has three story lines: first there is the main investigation into the murder; Jade's need to close a chapter in her life; and third, her relationship with David, is there a future there. This thriller has what I enjoy in a story: good plot; a couple of peripheral story lines that fill out the personal aspects of the character's life; and a strong feeling of location. I binge read my way through Random Violence. This author reinforces my opinion that South Africa produces first-rate crime writers.

I started reading Random Violence just after I finished Antony Altbeker's study of crime in South Africa, A Country at War with Itself: South Africa's Crises of Crime (Discussed in detail by Jameson Maluleke and Nick van der Leek). I was struck by how well Mackenzie captured the problems still facing South Africa sixteen years after the end of apartheid and the start of majority rule. For example, Altbeker discusses how the drive for security by those who can afford it drives wedges between people, between affluent and those living a marginal existence. Jassy makes frequent mention of private armed response companies providing security for walled, fortified, and electrified communities springing up around Johannesburg.

The author herself has first hand knowledge of violence in South Africa having been car-jacked at gun point. Also, when you finish the book, keep in mind that the violent conclusion is based on a true-life event of which Jassy has personal knowledge. The person't escape happened as described in the book.

Adding to the sense of location, the Valjoen brothers, characters in the story, are patterned after Eugene Terreblanche, the leader of the white supremacist leader of the AWB (Afrikaner Resistence Movement) who was murdered in 2010 touching off a serious political crises. The Valjoen brothers fom one of the subplots of the story and link Jade's past with the course her life has taken.

Random Violence is an excellent crime/PI/thriller that gives an outsider a look into a different culture.

Next up, Stolen Lives, book two in the Jade de Jong series.