STOLEN LIVES opens with a raid on a brothel in London. It isn’t a success because Salimovic, the owner, and his female partner get away but Detective Constable Edmonds knows the raid accomplished something important. “…she approached the bed…. A black girl lay there, eyes wide and terrified. She was on her side, her slender arms wrapped tightly around her legs, and Edmonds saw with a jolt that she was naked. She glanced around the room for something to cover her with, but there was nothing suitable in the small space. Nothing at all.” Edmonds and her partner, Inspector Richards of the Human Trafficking Department in Scotland Yard, know there are few big victories in their line of work, but little victories add up and a small disruption can save a young woman’s life.
Johannesburg October 25
Terence Jordaan is in bed with one of his many girl friends. Terence is the owner of a chain of strip clubs called Heads and Tails and his work provides him with as many willing women as chooses to have. The woman who chooses to stay away from him is his wife. She is not in the house that night when all the security is breached and Terence is taken away.
The next day, Pamela Jordaan contacts Jade de Jong, wanting to hire her as a body guard. Pamela has known police Superintendent David Patel since they were children. David has give Pamela Jade’s name because Pamela wants the best and is willing to pay for it. Pamela is convinced that she is in danger from the same people who kidnapped her husband. Terence has made a great deal of money going beyond operating strip clubs; Terence is involved in the trafficking of young women through South Africa and Britain. When an attempt is made on Pamela’s life, Jade commits to protecting Pamela. Her husband has made very dangerous enemies.
Lindewe Mtwetwa is a link in a chain that provides bogus documentation to people who need false passports and identity cards to get out of South Africa. She has good contacts at the office of Home Affairs until, suddenly, no one is returning her calls and documents she has promised to some very nasty people aren’t available. Lindewe cannot know that David Patel’s wife, Naisha, has just taken over the office of Home Affairs and has immediately begun a campaign to clean up the department, especially the sale of false documents. Much more than Lindewe’s considerable income is at stake here.
STOLEN LIVES is two more stories, all four woven together to show that stealing a person’s life is as easy as crushing a bug. Money breeds money and, in these stories, the acquisition of money has crushed any conscience that might have once lingered in the psyche’s of the men and women who traffic in the lives of the desperately poor who think a job at a place like Heads and Tails is the way out of poverty for themselves and their families.
Jassy Mackenzie has written a story that is tight; so tight that even a little information can be too much information and ruin the impact of the story. Johannesburg is a very dangerous city. The rich live behind high walls topped with barbed wire. They live in gated communities, in homes with the best security systems money can buy. Magnificent homes are prisons, the residents hiding behind steel doors and barred windows. Even in communities protected by gates, individual homes are protected by more gates and most residents have huts at their driveways, shelter for the round-the-clock guards who are encouraged to shoot before asking questions. The poor live in a state of poverty beyond anything that can be imagined in the United States. Life is cheap in Johannesburg and it is a perfect place for trafficking in sex slaves because each who falls into the trap believes that, eventually, she will join the rich behind walls in another gated community. Poverty steals rational thought; it is those who use the poor who steal their hope.
There is violence in STOLEN LIVES but it reflects the brutality of the characters who engage in sexual slavery. For a person to engage in the trafficking of human beings, they must have willingly given up their own humanity. David Patel is an uncomplicated man caught in a complicated relationship. He loves his wife and his son but he also loves Jade, someone he has known for most of his life. Jade, on the other hand, is a very complicated woman. Jade can kill and has done so, creating a barrier between herself and David. She is a reflection of Johannesburg, a beautiful city shadowed by violence and its history. Johannesburg has secrets and so does Jade.
STOLEN LIVES is an excellent follow-up to the first book in the series, RANDOM VIOLENCE. The evil in the first book is deadening because it is unpredictable. The evil in STOLEN LIVES isn’t unpredictable. The core of the story is the trafficking in human beings and there is nothing more evil than that. Not everyone gets what they deserve.