Insight into SA’s African immigrants

2011-08-24 00:00

ONE of the best things about this ­novel is the insight it gives into the lives of the South African community of immigrants from the rest of the continent.

The central character, Vee Johnson is, like her creator, a Liberian living in Cape Town, and many of the people she knows are also part of the southward African diaspora. The horrors they have left are only hinted at, but they do give a perspective on some of the things that are happening locally.

Vee is a journalist on Urban magazine, who feels she could deal with more challenging work than the Lifestyle kind of pages that are coming her way. How about cases of missing children and teens? The story she latches onto is that of Jacqui Paulsen, the feisty daughter of a single mother, who vanished without trace a couple of years before. Saddled with an oddly naive white intern, Chloe, Vee decides to use this story to prove her credentials as an investigative journalist. Jacqui’s father is a coloured cardiac surgeon, married to a German doctor. They have three living children, and one son who has died of leukaemia. It is into this tangled web of relationships that Vee begins to delve.

Golakai’s writing strives a little too hard for effect on occasion, and the plotting is often needlessly complex: a good editing would have done wonders for her tendency to over-egg the pudding. And as The Lazarus Effect is her first novel, to put “A Vee Johnson mystery” on the cover seems pretty daft. Still, judging from her first outing, Vee is a lively addition to South Africa’s team of fictional investigators, and one we could happily welcome back.

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