Private Gold (Private #13.5), by James Patterson and Jassy Mackenzie

Eight stars

I have always enjoyed the quick reading I can accomplish with the BookShot collection, developed a few years ago by James Patterson. What had me even more excited was to see that Patterson chose Jassy Mackenzie to help expand his series, tapping into another aspect of the Private collection with this accomplished South African author. With Private Johannesburg circling the drain, there is little for Joey Montague to do but close up shop after his partner’s untimely suicide. When Joey receives a call from Isobel Collins, seeking to hire Private to act as a bodyguard, he cannot decline, especially since this poor American has decided to situate herself in the roughest neighbourhood in the city. Joey rushes to meet her and they appear to hit it off immediately, though someone is lurking in the shadows, their eyes firmly focussed on Isobel. Joey soon learns that Isobel is in possession of a set of coordinates that have her truly baffled, though she is sure it ties into something having to do with her husband’s business. They trek out of town, heading in the direction of an abandoned gold mine, long since decommissioned by the government. What they discover there shocks them, both in its bone-chilling reality and potential monetary value. It also goes to substantiate something that Isobel has been wondering, based on other figures she and a friend have intercepted. Before they can alert the authorities, the shadowy figure strikes and nothing is guaranteed. Might Joey’s partner have a message from beyond the grave? Patterson and Mackenzie have shown that they are a force with whom to be reckoned as the Private series expands onto new continents. Fans of Bookshots and the Private collection may appreciate this a great deal, though anyone wanting a quick thrill ride may also find it well worth their time.

I have a love/hate relationship with James Patterson, though I can respect that he is also saddled with many writing projects, pairing up with countless co-authors. The BookShots are always hit and miss stories, for I find that it is a delicate writing chemistry that will either produce something I highly enjoy or a piece that falls flat. Jassy Mackenzie has never let me down and I am so happy to see that James Patterson took a gamble to work alongside her. The characters in this piece have little time to develop themselves, but what is offered up permits the reader to lay a solid foundation. The reader can attach themselves to Joey and Isobel with ease, as well as the less savoury person lurking in the shadows, whose mission is quite clear. The premise of the piece is also quite good and I hope to see more by this pair, as the narrative flowed well and utilised the short chapter formula that has worked so well for Patterson in the past. As this was a BookShot, developing the South African flavour was not possible and those who are not familiar with the geographic region will not be able to feel its richness in such a short time. I can only hope that readers will look into Jassy Mackenzie as a solo author and discover this wonderfully unique setting, or that Patterson will return and perhaps allow Mackenzie to utilise her skills in a full-length novel alongside his tight framework.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Mackenzie, for such a wonderfully written short piece. I enjoyed it and would surely love to see you both team up together once again in the near future.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Bad Seeds (Jade de Jong #5), by Jassy Mackenzie

Eight stars

Jassy Mackenzie is back with another Jade de Jong thriller that will push the reader into the dark world of nuclear power and the instability of its components. When Jade de Jong is hired by a senior representative of the Inkomfe Nuclear Research Centre, she is somewhat confused. As South Africa turns away from traditional electricity generation to the more reliable nuclear power, de Jong is left to wonder why she, a lowly private investigator, might be tasked with such an important job. Tasked with following Carlos Botha, a member of the Inkomfe team, de Jong finds herself in the middle of a murder scene at a seedy motel, where one victim is a former high-ranking government official. Could Botha be at the centre of this, as he was seen near the room during de Jong’s reconnaissance. While de Jong seeks to hone in on her target, his vehicle explodes, leaving de Jong to wonder if a contract on his life is the next layer of this convoluted mission. The plot thickens and Botha goes from mouse to fellow cat as de Jong confides much in him after her cover is blown. Meanwhile, the police are baffled by this double murder and try to pieces things together, though their leads are slow to develop. As she continues to struggle with a relationship that turned sour, de Jong must bring Superintendent David Patel into the mix, only to learn that he is juggling news that a potential terrorist has been spotted across South Africa. Discovering that Inkomfe might be weak from inside and that enriched uranium ingots could be stolen and sold on the black market at any time, de Jong must determine who she can trust and how these murders might play into the larger question of nuclear weapon production. Full of twists and dramatic build-up, Jassy Mackenzie’s absence for a few years can be forgiven with this superior piece. Fans of Jade de Jong will be pleased to see another instalment and those fans who enjoy a thriller set deep in the Southern Hemisphere may enjoy a break from the ISIS-centric storylines that supersaturate the genre at present.

I enjoy a vast array of thrillers that tap into all parts of the world, for they enrich my reading experience and permit me to understand world issues through various lenses. Jassy Mackenzie arms this novel with her great knowledge of South Africa and weaves the local lore into her narrative, while also presenting readers with some of the political and economic issues that weigh heavily on the country. I found myself highly entertained and educated by these aspects, as well as the nuclear power discussions in general, which have been lacking in writing since many writers took up the War on Terror theme that has been beaten to death. While the Jade de Jong character is by no means unique, her ongoing struggles as a former criminal and attachment to a high-ranking member of the police prove to be useful in developing her backstory. That she is a little jaded (pardon the pun) adds to the story and keeps the reader pushing ahead to see how things will resolve themselves. As mentioned above, the story is decent and poignant, as South Africa seems to be turning towards new and exciting (though dangerous) technologies to better themselves. The Republic of South Africa is a powder-keg and surely one I enjoy being used as the setting for novels. I find myself learning so much and Mackenzie is a wonderful guide. Rich and highly entertaining, the book reads well and advances easily, leaving the reader to beg for more by the climactic end.

Kudos, Madam Mackenzie, for another wonderful addition to the series. While I have been waiting a while to sink my teeth into this latest novel, the wait was worth it!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons