Soho Press, April 2013
PI Jade de Jong book 4
Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher.
I chose Pale Horses because I’m trying to read books from as many countries as possible for the 2013 Global Reading Challenge. This is the first South African crime novel I’ve read. Also, I’ve liked female PI novels starting with Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton so I’m interested in this sub-genre. Pale Horses is the fourth book in the Jade de Jong series, and the opening chapters provide plenty of backstory about Jade, her personal life, her parents, and her recent past as a private investigator. It’s a lot to cover though this is just book four in the series, and, honestly, it felt a bit clunky to me. Nevertheless, it was necessary information.
Pale Horses centers on Jade’s investigation into the death of Sonet Meintjies, who died during a base jump from a ritzy skyscraper in Johannesburg. She’s hired by Victor Theron, a commodities trader who was Sonja’s jumping partner. Jade works with a police officer and former love interest David Patel during the course of the investigation, and they travel throughout the city and to the remote farmland where Sonet worked as a relief worker. Mackenzie provides plenty of background about tribal land claims and farming practices.
Character-wise, Mackenzie focuses on Jade and David. Jade is a prickly character: she’s made some questionable decisions in her work and personal lives, or maybe her choices are more mystifying to me because I haven’t read any other books in the series. Mackenzie also spends certain chapters with other characters whose connections to the deceased Sonet aren’t clear until the end of the novel. It kept me at a bit of distance from the characters because I kept wondering what part of the puzzle they were.
Overall, I found the book to be a brisk read, but I felt like it somehow didn’t gel or grab me. The individual parts were interesting: a protagonist with complicated personal and professional lives, a conspiracy involving tribal land claims and modern farming science, a mysterious death during base jump from a skyscraper. I think part of my issue is that some of the exposition slowed down the story for me, and, of course, I don’t have the background with the series to get a complete picture of Jade. I’m interested to see what others have thought about earlier books in the series.