Archive for May 1, 2013

51zuS5qOhnL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU02_Pale Horses is the fourth in author Jassy Mackenzie’s series based in Johannesburg, South Africa and featuring private investigator Jade de Jong.

Jade is hired by wealthy futures trader and base jumper Vincent Theron to investigate the fatal fall of his parachuting partner Sonet Meintjies from 350px-Map_of_South_Africa_with_English_labels.svgthe 68 storey Sandton Views skyscraper. Sonet had worked for a charity helping indigenous people to establish farming projects. As Jade investigates she discovers  Sonet’s obnoxious ex-husband Van Schalkwyk had lost his farm in a land claim to the Siyabonga tribe, and has leaflets scattered in his house from the “Boere Krisis Kommando”.  But the Siyabonga tribe seem to have disappeared and their farming commune is barren and deserted. When Jade starts to return to Johannesburg, her tyres are slashed and as she begins to search for Sonet’s siblings she is involved in shootings, car chases, and a brutal murder.

Meanwhile Ntombi Khumalo, whose husband has died of cancer, is being forced by her employer to act as chauffeur to a vicious killer, because he has threatened her son little Khumalo.

Pales Horses covers all of the essentials of good crime thrillers; it is exciting, has good characters, an intriguing plot, a good deal of social commentary, and a fine sense of place. The atmosphere of modern post apartheid South Africa is evoked on many levels, but especially with the contrasts between the wealthy shopping and business district of Sandton, Johannesburg, and the harsh bleak poverty of rural South Africa.

In less than three hundred pages Jassy Mackenzie introduces the reader to some of the Rainbow Nation’s many problems, corruption, racism, land reform, the vast gulf between rich and poor, and the seemingly ever present violence. Amusingly Jade’s ex-lover Police Superintendent David Patel has difficulty sleeping on the Cape Province coast because it is too quiet. He is so used to  the noise of sirens and gunfire in Johannesburg, a city whose prosperous suburbs feature security gates, high walls, razor wire and guns.

 Jade de Jong is a feisty female protagonist, well suited to her environment, much more VI Warshawski than Miss Marple; and her relationship with David Patel, who has his own personal problems, is one of the interesting sub-plots. Ntombi Khumalo in her perilous situation dreams of being a professional chef, and distracts herself, and interests the reader, by thinking about her menus while driving around with a brutal killer. The reader is given two female protagonists in a genre that usually features men, because this is an out and out thriller, and one which stands up well to a comparison with the better known books of Deon Meyer. But most importantly Jassy’s characters are people you want to follow into the future, and see how their lives develop. Pale Horses is an excellent addition to the ever expanding sub genre of South African crime fiction, and I shall look out for number five in the series.

I received my advanced uncopyedited  from the publishers Soho Press. Jassy Mackenzie was born in what was then Rhodesia, and moved to South Africa when she was eight years old. The three previous Jade de Jong novels are, Random Violence, Stolen Lives and The Fallen.