Jade de Jong is the 30-something daughter of a “highly respected police commissioner,” who has returned to her native South Africa after spending a decade away in Britain working bodyguard and surveillance assignments.
In Stolen Lives she’s hired by spoiled and rash Pamela Jordaan, whose husband, Terence, has recently disappeared from their home in Johannesburg’s wealthy Sandton district. Pamela wants to buy De Jong’s protection for herself as well as her daughter, Tamsin, an administrator at one of Terence Jordaan’s chain of strip clubs. “You might have heard of them,” Pamela says to the P.I. “They’re called Heads & Tails. They’re upmarket, totally legitimate and above board. He offers his patrons good, clean fun.” If De Jong suspects that Pamela is overreacting to this situation — that her hubby, so accustomed to dubious activities, could simply have gone off with another woman, maybe one of his own employees — she’s quickly disabused of that notion, when a gun-toting motorcyclist tries to kill them both on a public highway.
The stakes in Stolen Lives escalate quickly. As De Jong struggles to keep Pamela Jordaan from falling apart or falling into worse straits, young Tamsin also vanishes. Questions soon arise about the role Terence Jordaan’s strip clubs might play in the illegal trafficking of women out of South Africa. And in the background of all this, a character of particularly nasty disposition seeks to benefit from the country’s shady trade in counterfeit passports. After torture victims are discovered in her client’s home, it falls to Jade de Jong to sort out whether all of these troubles are part of a threatening message being sent to the Jordaans, or whether there’s something less obvious going on.
Mackenzie’s exploration of life and crime in modern South Africa enriches a propulsive yarn that leaves the reader wanting more. ~ Jeff Pierce