Jassy Mackenzie’s RANDOM VIOLENCE is the first in the Jade de Jong series. The book opens with the murder of a woman, Annette Botha, in an apparent car hijacking outside the gates of her fortified home in a suburb of Johannesburg.
In the next scene, the reader is introduced to Jade who has been met at the airport by David Patel, a superintendent in the police department and the protege of Jade’s father, a police commissioner who was killed ten years earlier. Since her father’s death, Jade has been living in Great Britain, out of touch with people and events in South Africa. Now she has decided to return to the country from which she fled.
David is only too well aware of Jade’s code of behavior. He needs Jade and her willingness to act without compunction in dealing with those who know that they can operate outside the law without fear. David has prepared things for her return, at least as far as he sees it. He has hired a car for her and moved the basic necessities of life into a small home he has rented for her use . He needs her help with the investigation into Annette Botha’s murder. Jade is a successful private investigator, a career she entered when he father made it clear he didn’t want her to be involved in the corrupt police force of Johannesburg. Jade has the skills, and the commitment to use those skills, that David needs as the death toll rises and the police drag their heels in the investigation.
As soon as David drops Jade off at her new accommodations, she leaves to meet another old friend, a much less respectable one. Robbie is a gun dealer and Jade wants, needs, a gun. Before she went to England, Jade had left a gun with Robbie that he had promised to destroy. But when she goes to him on her return to Johannesburg, he hands her the same gun she had used ten years earlier when she killed a man. Robbie had broken his promise and Jade is compromised.
Jade has killed and she is willing to kill again. She has no illusions about the police service in Johannesburg. Corruption flows through the entire system. Jade’s code of honor is a reflection of the worst that she has seen. She is, in many ways, a woman like Lisbeth Salander. She is not so much a victim of her society as she is a willing agent in the punishment of those who victimize others.
The South Africa Jade returns to, especially in the Johannesburg area, is one that has become integrated. But it is also one where those who can afford to do so live in gated communities with heavily armed guards or who hide behind walls topped with razor wire.
As Jade looks into the murder of Annette Botha she learns that these communities are being built on large lots that had been owned by people who have died violently. Expensive property is being bought well below its real value from people who are devastated by the loss of loved ones. Identities are stolen and in the background is the man known as Whiteboy, a man who kills in the most brutal ways.
There are explicit descriptions of Whiteboy’s brutality. I did a lot of scanning but I am glad that I finished the book. Jade is a morally ambiguous character. Are Jade and Robbie amoral or immoral in their capacity as paid vigilantes? Does murder and torture have to be repaid in kind? What if the violence isn’t random at all?
The characters are interesting enough that I will read the next in the series when it makes it to the United States.
Michael Sears, part of the team writing as Michael Stanley (A CARRION DEATH, THE SECOND DEATH OF GOODLUCK TINUBU) has posted a most interesting article about murder for hire on the website http://www.murderiseverywhere.blogspot.com. Michael’s piece is entitled DO IT YOURSELF, posted on July 29.