Review: Random Violence by Jassy Mackenzie


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Soho Press Inc., 2010. Kindle edition. 459 KB. First published 2008. ASIN: B004HYHA3U. ISBN: 978-1-56947-629-1.

Random Violence revolves around the murder investigation of Annette Botha in a smallholding north of Johannesburg. A couple of days ago, Annette was shot as she arrived home. It seems an attempted robbery that went terribly wrong . The victim had a pepper spray in her hand when her body was found. Probably she tried to resist. Maybe she was too scared and acted without thinking. Most likely the attackers were scared as well. They shot her, grabbed her bag from her car and took off. Recently promoted Superintendent David Patel is in charge of the case as head of the investigation unit at Johannesburg Central. Although if it would have been for Commissioner Williams, his boss, Patel would not have been appointed for that job.

Patel is telling this to Jade de Jong, the daughter of his former boss, a highly respected police commissioner, who has just arrived to Johannesburg after ten years of absence. Jade is a private investigator. Patel has asked for her help in this case. There is little evidence in what appears to be an opportunistic crime and, besides, there are some complications. Annette’s ex-husband, Piet Botha has decided that the best way to speed up the investigation is to contact every newspaper and radio station who is prepared to speak to him. He has created the biggest media circus since Zuma’s rape trial.

But Jade has more pressing issues to attend  in the wrong side of town. She was back in South Africa for one reason. Viljoen, a convicted murderer and the man she holds responsible for her father’s murder, was due to be released after spending the last ten years in jail. But even if she has other plans, she soon finds out that Annette’s killer knew how to shoot. The two bullets had been fired from an estimated distance of six meters. Annette had clearly been murdered by an experienced shooter.  

Jassy Mackenzie was born in Zimbabwe and moved to South Africa when she was eight years old. Mackenzie is from a family where books weren’t just more important than television; they were so important that television was banned from the house. Random Violence (Umuzi, 2008) is Jassy MacKenzie’s first novel and was shortlisted for Best First Book in the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Africa region in 2009. It has also been nominated for a Shamus Award in the Best First Book category in the USA. To date she has published three other books in the Jade de Jong series: Stolen Lives (Umuzi, 2010); Worst Case aka The Fallen (Umuzi, 2011); Pale Horses (Umuzi, 2012). 

Probably what I would highlight more of this book is its sense of place. So for those who, like me, are very much in favour of this feature, I think they will find this book highly attractive. It might be extremely violent for some sensibilities but, in my view, this violence is not gratuitous. The moral ambiguity of the main character is also a very interesting aspect and the main reason I’m looking forward to reading other books in the series. I will not elaborate on those aspects of the story that I have found extremely weak in order not to give away much of the plot. Suffice is to say that some aspects are difficult to believe and others are superfluous.

My rating: 3/5.

Random Violence has been reviewed at Euro Crime (Maxine), at Africa Screams (Mack), and at International Noir Fiction (Glenn) among others.

Umuzi

Soho Crime

Random House

Jassy Mackenzie official site

Jo’burg’s Best: The Jade de Jong novels of Jassy Mackenzie at Scene of the Crime

 

Random Violence (Violencia aleatoria) de Jassy Mackenzie

Random Violence gira en torno a la investigación del asesinato de Annette Botha en una pequeña explotación al norte de Johannesburgo. Hace un par de días, Annette fue asesinada cuando llegaba a casa. Parece un intento de robo que salió terriblemente mal. La víctima tenía un spray de pimienta en la mano cuando se encontró su cuerpo. Probablemente ella trató de resistirse. Tal vez estaba demasiado asustada y actuó sin pensar. Lo más probable es que los atacantes también tuvieran miedo. Le dispararon, agarraron el bolso de su coche y se fueron. El recien promovido Superintendente David Patel está a cargo del caso como jefe de la unidad de investigación en Johannesburgo Central. Aunque si hubiera sido por el Comisario Williams, su jefe, Patel no hubiera sido designado para ese puesto.

Patel está diciendo esto a Jade de Jong, la hija de su antiguo jefe, un respetado jefe de policía, que acaba de llegar a Johannesburgo tras diez años de ausencia. Jade es una investigadora privada y Patel le ha pedido su ayuda en este caso. Hay muy poca evidencia en lo que parece ser un crimen oportunista y, además, hay algunas complicaciones. El ex-marido de Annette, Piet Botha ha decidido que la mejor manera de acelerar la investigación es ponerse en contacto todos los periódicos y estaciones de radio que esten dispuestas a hablar con él. Ha organizado el mayor circo mediático desde el juicio por violación de Zuma.

Pero Jade tiene asuntos más urgentes que atender en el lado equivocado de la ciudad. Ella habia regresado a Sudáfrica por un motivo. Viljoen, un asesino convicto y el hombre al que considera responsable de la muerte de su padre, iba a ser puesto en libertad tras pasar los últimos diez años en la cárcel. Pero incluso si tiene otros planes, pronto descubre que el asesino de Annette sabía disparar. Las dos balas habían sido disparadas desde una distancia estimada de seis metros. Annette claramente había sido asesinada por una tirador experimentado.

Jassy Mackenzie nació en Zimbabwe y se trasladó a Sudáfrica, cuando tenía ocho años de edad. Mackenzie es de una familia donde los libros no sólo eran más importantes que la televisión, eran tan importantes que la televisión estaba prohibida en su casa. Random Violence (Umuzi, 2008) es la primera novela de Jassy MacKenzie protagonizada por Jade de Jong y estuvo nominada en el 2009 al premio a la Mejor Primera Novela por los Escritores de la Commonwealth de la región de África. También ha sido nominada al Premio Shamus de los Estados Unidos en la categoría de Mejor Primera Novela. Hasta la fecha ha publicado otros tres libros con Jade de Jong como protagonista: Stolen Lives (Umuzi, 2010); Worst Case aka The Fallen (Umuzi, 2011); Pale Horses (Umuzi, 2012).

Probablemente lo que más destacaría de este libro es su sentido de lugar. Así que para aquellos que, como yo, están muy a favor de esta característica, creo que encontrarán este libro muy atractivo. Puede ser que sea extremadamente violento para algunas sensibilidades, pero, en mi opinión, esta violencia no es gratuita. La ambigüedad moral del personaje principal también es un aspecto muy interesante, y la razón principal por la que estoy deseando leer otros libros de la serie. No voy a profundizar en aquellos aspectos de la historia que he encontrado muy débiles, para no descubrir gran parte de la trama. Baste con añadir que algunos aspectos resultan difíciles de creer y otros son superfluos.

Mi valoración: 3/5.

7 thoughts on “Review: Random Violence by Jassy Mackenzie

  1. José Ignacio – I think you’re absolutely right that the real appeal of this novel is the sense of place and context. We get a real feel for life in today’s South Africa. And yes, the characters are developed enough so that there is ambiguity about them. I like the fact that Mackenzie doesn’t make make them easy people to understand. I know what you mean about the improbable parts of the plot and there is a lot of sometimes brutal violence. It’s a solid start to the series though, I thought.

  2. Thanks, Jose Ignacio. I’d heard vaguely of this series, and am pleased that your post has given me the chance to learn more about it. Random Violence looks like an interesting debut, even if not perfect – onto the TBR pile it goes!

  3. I agree with your comments on this book. I thought it an okay read with a feisty protagonist, always interesting, but there were weak and incredible aspects to the plot. However, I am quite willing to try another book in this series.

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