Once again, I find myself showing up late for a series of novels featuring several recurring characters. Thankfully, as is the case with Jassy Mackenzie’s Jade de Long series, that is not always a bad thing. The Fallen, Mackenzie’s third Jade de Long novel, works so well as a standalone novel, in fact, that I now want to go back and read her two previous ones featuring this feisty South African private investigator.
Jade de Long is taking scuba lessons in St. Lucia while she waits for her boyfriend, police superintendent David Patel, to join her for the romantic holiday she has planned for them. Still fighting the panic attacks that make it impossible for her to remain underwater for any length of time, Jade is grateful for the kind and patient attention she is receiving from dive instructor Amanda Bolton. She genuinely likes the young instructor and is intrigued when she learns that only a few months earlier Amanda had been working as an air traffic controller.
Things begin to go bad when David arrives with news about a personal matter that will adversely affect their relationship. Jade, reacting badly to David’s revelation and not wanting to return to the cabin she shares with him, winds up spending the night in another man’s bed. Then, before she can confront David about whether they still have future together, she discovers that Amanda Bolton has been stabbed to death.
David offers to help the undermanned local police department with the murder investigation, and Jade, feeling some personal loyalty to Amanda, works with him every step of the way. As Jade and David pick away at the few clues they start with, they learn just how complicated the situation they have stumbled into really is. Each thread they pull on leads them in a new direction, adds suspects to their list, and puts their own lives at greater risk.
Jassy Mackenzie certainly has a winner in the fearless Jade de Long character, but the greater strength of The Fallen is how she blends her characters into the fabric of contemporary South African culture. The book offers enlightening looks at the dangerously high crime rates of the country’s major cities, everyday interaction between the races, and the environmental issues that threaten that part of the world. All of this is so seamlessly integrated into her storyline that it is absorbed as just another element of a Jade de Long mystery.
The Fallen is not scheduled for publication until April 2012, so there is still time to read the first two books in the series, Random Violence (2008) and Stolen Lives (2010), before this new one hits the shelves.
Rated at: 4.0