Pales Horses (Jade de Jong #4), by Jassy Mackenzie

Three stars (of five)

In the latest Jade de Jong novel, Mackenzie continues her informative description of life and crime in South Africa. Jade de Jong is hired by a wealthy trader to investigate a suspicious death of a close friend, Sonet Meintjies. During a base jump, Sonet died attempting to parachute from a skyscraper. Could there be more to this than a simple miscalculation or equipment failure? Jade begins digging deeper, which uncovers that Sonet had an extensive charity portfolio and worked closely with impoverished communities as they tried to rebuild their farming base. Jade goes to inquire, but finds one community whose name is all over Sonet portfolio completely razed to the ground for no good reason. Working at arm’s length with Superintendent David Patel, Jade peels back the mystery and soon realises that there is a plethora of evil lurking under the surface, with unknowing Africans as blindsided victims. While still wrestling with her emotions for Patel and the news he delivered months earlier, Jade must forge ahead to save the community and Africa as a whole from the grip of a multi-national corporation bent on building their profit margin on the backs of farming collectives. Gripping in its telling and content, Mackenzie taps into the reader’s curiosity to deliver a wonderful addition to the series.

While some have lauded Mackenzie for always delivering a new and more thrilling novel, I was not as impressed with the fourth instalment of the Jade de Jong series. There were moments of intrigue and wonderful sleuthing, but the narrative impetus and thrill factor seems to have dissipated as Mackenzie rests on her laurels a little, leaving Jade and Patel to fend for themselves. The subject matter appeared a little to intrigue, but not tear the reader away from their respective issues and push crop modification front and centre in their lives. The ideas were fresh and the approach ever-evolving, but I am not sure how I truly feel about the Jade de Jong story here, or the lack of personal development. It appears as though too much came out in the last novel and there is nothing on which to build in this novel.

 Kudos, Madam Mackenzie for a good piece of writing. I would love to see another novel come into this series, if you have new and impressive ideas to share.