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Friday, March 29, 2013

Stolen Lives, by Jassy Mackenzie ($14) (c2008)

South African author Jassy Mackenzie's first book was "Random Violence." In that she introduced Jade de Jong, a woman who had fled her homeland after her father, an outstanding police captain, died. Upon returning years later, she became a private investigator.

Jade's adventures show us a South Africa hidden behind high walls topped with barbed wire, a country in which many ordinary citizens are armed and dangerous, a place in which the haves and have-nots are still poles apart.

It is every parent's nightmare, one that Jade's former boyfriend, police detective David Patel, now knows intimately. His son has been kidnapped. That doesn't happen until midway through the book, but it is the story with the highest intensity. It is at that point that Jade and David become involved in all the various stories.

The book begins when Jade is hired to protect a woman with a shady background. Pamela Jordaan is over-the-top, a caricature of a nouveau riche woman whose husband owns strip joints. She plunks down a Ferrari-load of money, gets Jade shot at, and finally crashes her sports car, with Jade in it. Jade must also locate Pam's husband and daughter. Who has gotten Jade into this mess? David. When Pam asked him for a reference, he gave up Jade's name.

David is also involved in an international investigation into sex trafficking. Beginning in England and crossing into Europe and winding up in South Africa, British officers are tracking the masterminds of an organization bringing innocent women into English brothels.

All roads lead to Rome and all stories lead to a shocking and cleverly drawn together conclusion. 

This book should have been called "Graphic Violence," to follow the theme of the first book. There are graphic scenes of people suffering violence at the hands of others. Several victims are tortured, and Mackenzie gives you excruciating detail. It may be fiction, but it will make you squirm.

For a competent police officer and devoted father, David Patel seems singularly juvenile and ineffective in his social life. What does Jade see in him? Nevertheless, he is the unintentional locus of all that happens, and he is Jade's link to everything as well.

I like the character of Jade. She's got killer instincts and is still trying to come to terms with that. She has sacrificed a normal life to go her own way. She is still haunted by her parents' deaths. She likes dogs. She lives a spartan life, but unfortunately, it's devoid of humor as well.

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