Author: HJ Golakai
Publisher: Kwela Books
Year of publication: 2011
Number of pages: 310
Hawa Jande Golakai’s debut novel The Lazarus Effect is what they a “whodunnit”. A young woman called Jaqueline “Jacqui” Paulsen is murdered by an unknown assailant in Cape Town South Africa. She was raised by Adelle Paulsen a single mother while her father Dr Ian Fourie a successful doctor who had another family. The case of the missing seventeen year old Jacqui baffled the cops but they had some leads working for them. Their prime suspect was Ashwin Venter who was a boyfriend of hers and who was the last person to see her alive. He looked good for the crime as he had kids with two other women he was paying maintenance for as well as being violent and he didn’t want to pay maintenance on a third child if she was pregnant. Also an interesting angle was the second family that Jaqui belonged to with which include Dr Ian, his wife Carina and kids Serena, Rosie and Lucas. So whodunnit? The police investigated it thoroughly but two years later there were no more leads. Text book cold case.
Enter Urban Magazine investigative reporter Voinjama “Vee”Johnson. Liberian born, she lives in South Africa make a living working under Portia Kruger the managing editor of the magazine. She is thrust into the case when she starts hallucinating and getting breakdowns with the lady who died being at the centre of it all. So she has no choice but to follow through and try and crack the case if she was to get back her sanity. All she has working for her is that she is a reporter working to crack the case with the help of an assistant Chloe who was foisted upon her she has to solve the case.
I love this book for many reasons but the following three are my favourite;
The writer is hella funny. Sample this on page 141;
“The only word befitting the structure was “mansion.” The Cape Dutch-style home was concealed from view by a tidy cluster of oak trees, their new spring leaves swishing gently in the light breeze. The skirts of a plush lawn decorated a cobbled spine of a walkway leading to a veranda creeping with vine and rustic appeal. Vee resisted the urge to press her lowly nose through the wrought-iron bars of the fence and beg the residence within for a crust of bread and a farthling.”
You might be confused to imagine that this is one of those sleuthing books with computer hacking and surreptitious following of cars. It has all that. But this one also sees the main protagonist Vee is involved in fights and has to hold her own both in Cape Town and her country of birth when fleeing the flighting. She fights the main suspect Ashwin and she holds her own and gets injured but still has the gumption to get up and continue with her investigation. Tough as nails our Vee.
There is like you know… getting laid. Vee finds herself having to choose between her ex Titus Wreh and her good friend Joshua Allen. She has sex with one of them and the book describes the actions of the two when they finally get down to the nasty. Its not exactly Xaviera Hollander but there was a bit of a tingling when I read that scene in the book. I need to see more of this in African books if possible.
I have a feeling that this is not the last time I will be reading Vee Johnson adventures. This series if it comes has some serious legs.