Pale Horsesby Jassy Mackenzie
At first, the case appears to be one of simple misadventure. Sonet van Rensburg, a base jumper, falls to her death while attempting to parachute off a newly built sixty-five-story Sandton skyscraper. But Sonet's jumping partner Chris Theron insists that this was no accident, and he hires/b>
Book 4 in the PI Jade de Jong thriller series set in South Africa
At first, the case appears to be one of simple misadventure. Sonet van Rensburg, a base jumper, falls to her death while attempting to parachute off a newly built sixty-five-story Sandton skyscraper. But Sonet's jumping partner Chris Theron insists that this was no accident, and he hires private investigator Jade de Jong to uncover the truth.
Glad of the distraction from her conflicted and seemingly doomed relationship with police superintendent David Patel, Jade immerses herself in the case. She discovers that Sonet worked for a charity that helped impoverished communities become self-supporting farming units. Sonet's ex-husband, though, has nothing good to say about his wife or the work she has done. He tells Jade that Sonet's efforts were a useless waste of money and that the farming projects were not sustainable.
When Jade travels out to the Siyabonga community's farm in Limpopo, hoping to prove him wrong, she finds it not just abandoned but razed to the ground. Digging deeper for answers about where the residents went and why they left their fertile valley, Jade finds out that one man died from a terminal illness. Then, to her concern, she learns about more sicknesses and more deaths... a fatal but unknown disease that swept through the entire community.
Jade then discovers that Sonet's sister Teniel, a journalist, was investigating this mystery too. Teniel had discovered that one woman and her son had survived the plague and had left the area, and she was doing her best to track that woman down so she could hear her story.
But now Teniel is missing, and Jade will have to race against time in order to find her. A deadly harvest has been gathered in, and the only person who knows the real truth about it has been forced to become collateral in its trade.
“[Jade de Jong] is tough as nails and persistent, despite the fact that every clue leads to a dark and twisted place…. Pale Horses is sure to appeal to fans of Liza Marklund, Zoe Sharp, and Mackenzie’s fellow South African crime writer Deon Meyer.”
—Booklist, STARRED Review
“Gripping.... The novel hurtles toward a devastating climax.”
“Mackenzie’s shrewd plotting is enlivened by her sharp eye for both Johannesburg’s high life and its desperate poverty.”
—The Seattle Times
“A terrifying ride into a world of corporate greed, potential terrorism and the ways that South Africa’s future still resonates with its brutal past .... Mackenzie, who writes with chilly fervor, plunges the reader into a nightmare world that nonetheless offers the possibility of redemption.”
—Richmond Times Dispatch
"Pale Horses is top notch crime fiction at its best.... A Terrific adventure with intrigue and a beautifully plotted mystery."
“Stands up well to a comparison with the better known books of Deon Meyer...an excellent addition to the ever expanding sub genre of South African crime fiction.”
“Jade de Jong is one tough lady, one of the most fascinating protagonists around. She is flawed, emotionally fragile, yet tough as nails.... Like the previous books, [Pale Horses] is full of colorful, well-drawn characters, colorful details of life in South Africa, and is a thumping great story.”
—Over my Dead Body
“A solid thriller.... South Africa becomes a silent character that somehow speaks volumes about itself through the author's description.”
—Out of the Gutter
Praise for the Jade de Jong series
"A white-knuckle thriller with an utterly chilling finale."
—Tess Gerritsen, author of the Rizzoli & Isles series
"Jade de Jong is a heroine to cherish: tough, passionate, and packed with enough flaws to keep her interesting."
—Sophie Littlefield, author of A Bad Day for Sorry
—The New York Times Book Review
"Enticing.... With mysteries being such a male-dominated genre, Mackenzie’s series, and main character, is a welcome breath of fresh air."
From the Hardcover edition.
Read an Excerpt
Magdalena Eckhardt loved nothing better than people watching. In fact, she prided herself on being an astute observer. Her book club friends had often commented that she could read them as well as if they were one of the Lisa Gardner novels that circulated within the group. Certainly, she had a keen eye for body language and a memory for detail. She was also blessed with a fertile imagination that allowed her to fill in the gaps, to her own satisfaction at least, where observation alone failed to give the full story.
Now, she was comfortably ensconced in the embrace of one of the sought-after armchairs at Chez Chic, the Sandton coffee shop with a legendary position on the corner of Nelson Mandela Square, just a few metres away from the massive bronze statue of Madiba himself. Sipping on her soy decaf latte, Magdalena was happily appraising her fellow patrons while she waited for her two-thirty appointment with the Botox specialist in the nearby Medical Mews.
One couple in particular had caught her attention today, if only for the fact that she couldn’t quite work them out. They were definitely not stereotypical Sandton shoppers.
‘Stereotypical!’ she remembered one of the younger members of her book club exclaiming at their last get-together. ‘That’s such a cool word! Such a Magdalena word, don’t you agree? Stereotypical …. I love it!’
The woman had arrived first, sat down and ordered water. But no matter how far Magdalena leaned sideways, she couldn’t quite see her face. One thing was clear—although slim and young-looking, she was hopelessly underdressed for this smart establishment. Black jeans, tight-fitting black T-shirt, unstylish black running shoes and—horror of horrors—no handbag in evidence at all. She was also notable for her complete absence of accessories. No earrings, chains or rings were in sight and her brown hair was tied back in a simple ponytail.
The faintest of frowns creased Magdelena’s artificially smooth skin.
She must be a Goth, she decided. Or those modern kids, what were they—the emos. Surely they were teenagers, though, which made it unlikely as this woman must be in her late twenties at least. If only she could see her face better. Was she wearing any make-up? Black eyeliner would offer a hint. Black lipstick would provide conclusive proof.
And then a man arrived. Out of breath and apologising for his lateness, he’d swung into the seat opposite her. Magdalena was almost sure, and if the irritating waiter hadn’t chosen that minute to ask her if she wanted another latte, she would have been completely sure, that the man had started the conversation by introducing himself.
He, too, was rather casually dressed for this establishment. He wore a golf shirt—a good brand, mind—but he’d paired it with shorts. Shorts, in Sandton City! An abomination! Worse, his long, lean legs were unbecomingly pale. He had on expensive-looking leather moccasins, and a watch that looked like a premium brand, although it was so easy to be fooled by a good replica these days so perhaps it wasn’t the genuine article.
Even so, there was definitely no shortage of money there, though. A lack of taste, decidedly, but not money. The man looked extremely agitated. He was fidgeting non-stop; his fingers either tugging at the tablecloth or raking through his unruly hair—This is Sandton, you know. Would it have hurt you to put in a little gel?—and from time to time darting down to the right hand pocket of his shorts and patting it as if to reassure himself his wallet and phone were still there.
Magdalena drained her latte, slid her gold card into the leather folder the waiter had brought, and continued to watch them closely.
Why were they here, she wondered. It couldn’t be a business meeting. And they weren’t old friends, not if introductions had been made.
And then it hit her.
Of course. This was a first date.
Why hadn’t she realised this earlier? It explained everything. The man’s nervousness; the fact that the woman, despite the quietly assured way she carried herself, wasn’t dressed like a Sandton City regular. She obviously didn’t live in the area, and must have made a special trip into Sandton for this very important reason.
She stared, rapt. How romantic! She, Magdalena Eckhardt, could quite possibly be watching the start of a relationship that would last. The spark that might grow into a bright and searing flame. That phrase sounded rather good, she thought. She’d have to memorise it and see if there would be an opportunity to use it at a future book club meeting.
The waiter returned the folder and she slipped her gold card back into her Ralph Lauren wallet.
She was going to speak to the couple as she walked past their table, she decided, and tell them why she thought they were here. She’d done this from time to time before, and could still remember the triumph that had washed warmly over her as the astounded faces of the patrons proved her correct.
‘How did you know?’ one woman, whom Magdalena had pegged as an Avon saleslady, had gasped.
‘Intuition and observation,’ she’d replied, shrugging airily, as if anyone could do the same; as if what she had was not a special gift.
She climbed to her feet, balancing carefully on her Manolo Blahniks, which were gorgeously beautiful but with heels a fraction too high to allow for perfect comfort, temporarily denting the café’s luxurious but utterly impractical Persian carpet. Then she scooped up her Prada bag and brushed a piece of fluff off her aquamarine linen jacket.
And then, perhaps alerted by her movement, the woman in the dark clothing looked round and for just one moment Magdalena met her gaze.
She felt the breath huff out of her open mouth and took an involuntary step back, balancing herself against the table with a perfectly manicured hand.
Her features were just as Magdalena had imagined them—attractive and strong and without a trace of make-up. But instead of the happy excitement she’d expected to see there, what hit her powerfully was the incredible tiredness in the woman’s face—a hollow, exhausted look as if she were sick of life itself—and the cold, dead hardness in her narrowed green eyes.
Blinking rapidly, Magdalena looked away, flustered, the blood rushing to her face. The woman looked away, too, as if with that sideways glance she had allowed her mask to slip.
Abandoning her plans to approach the couple, Magdalena gathered herself together and hurried out of the café.
With an effort, Jade de Jong dragged her attention back to the man sitting opposite her. Theron, his name was. Victor Theron. A tall beanpole of a man in his late thirties, crackling with nervous energy. He could barely keep still long enough to get a coherent sentence out, and his hands fidgeted constantly, worrying at his watch strap and tugging at his hair. An outward expression of inner discomfiture, Jade wondered
‘I need your help,’ he said.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said bluntly, glancing up again as the well-dressed woman who’d been watching them earlier caught her heel on the edge of the carpet and bumped her handbag against the counter in her haste to leave. ‘Mr Theron, I only came to this meeting because I was passing through the area. As I told you when you called me just now, I’m not accepting any new cases at the moment.’
A smartly uniformed waitress arrived. Jade asked for another mineral water.
‘What can I get you, sir?’ the waitress asked Theron.
‘No. Nothing, thanks.’ He paused for a moment. ‘Actually, yes. I’ll have a Coke.’
Jade couldn’t help wondering what the effect of the caffeine would be on a man who already looked wired to the hilt.
‘Look, I—I don’t think you understand my situation. How incredibly important this is, Just how much trouble I’m in. Please, at least let me tell you.’ He was stammering now; in his haste to get the words out they tumbled over each other, spilling into the muted background buzz of the coffee shop.
‘You did give me a brief rundown over the phone.’
‘I did. But you need to hear the whole thing to understand. There was . . . I don’t know how to put this, even. For the last week I’ve been in a nightmare situation. What we did was a game. We took a calculated risk. I don’t know what went wrong or why. Statistically it shouldn’t have—that’s the truth of it—but it did.’
He pressed bony fingers against office-pale cheeks. Jade saw his hands were shaking.
She knew she shouldn’t ask him but she did.
‘Tell me, then. What happened?’ she said.
‘We went jumping last week. At night. From Sandton Views. You might know it—it’s close to here. Sixty-eight storeys. It’s the new and the tallest skyscraper in Sandton. The upper levels aren’t finished yet.’
‘When you say jumping, what exactly do you mean?’
‘Base jumping.’ He looked straight at her, blinking fast, and she noticed his eyes were an unusual light hazel flecked with green and gold. ‘It’s not legal. Not a legitimate activity at all. But for thrill-seekers it’s addictive. The adrenaline rush, you know?’
Jade nodded. She knew. Although parachuting from tall buildings was not her chosen hobby, she was all too familiar with the thrill of doing the forbidden, the dangerous.
Theron took a mouthful of his Coke and then told her more of his story, speaking in rapid bursts.
‘I jumped first,’ he said. ‘I always do, when we go together.’ He blinked again and corrected himself. ‘I always did,’ he said.
‘What happened then?’
‘I don’t know, Ms de Jong. I just don’t know.’
‘Please call me Jade.’
He gulped down some more Coke and, as if being on first-name terms had given him encouragement, let loose a veritable flood of words. ‘Thinking it over now, I’m confused. If I hadn’t been on such a damn adrenaline high, I might have been able to remember more clearly. I don’t know what happened. Maybe she took a phone call, or her phone beeped, or something. Or maybe not. It was dark up there and I was focused on other things. At any rate, she turned away from the edge. Then she told me to go ahead and jump, and that she would follow me down.’
‘You jumped, then.’
‘You didn’t wait?’
He met her eyes again.
‘It’s a difficult thing to do, jumping. For me, anyway. Takes a lot of guts. Turning away . . . I don’t know that I’d have been able to come back to the edge again. And I didn’t know how she felt, or whether she was up to jumping that day. I remember thinking at the time that she probably wasn’t going to do it. Besides, I wanted to go first, so that if there were any problems with the landing, I could get them out of the way. Make it safer for her.’
‘Had she ever backed out before?’
Jade took a long breath. ‘I guess there’s always a first time.’
‘I suppose so. Whenever I’m up there, standing on the edge, I wonder if I’ll be able to go through with it.’
‘So what happened to her, then?’
Jade frowned. ‘What do you mean?’
‘I mean just that. I don’t know what happened. One minute I was standing on the lawn down below, packing up my chute, and the next minute . . . ’ He closed his eyes and grimaced before continuing at a slower pace and in a quieter tone. ‘She was falling. I heard her before I saw her. Heard the chute flapping—a partly opened parachute makes a horrible sound.
‘I ran, Jade. I sprinted over to where she was going to hit the ground, to try and break her fall, but I was too late. I didn’t know what on earth had happened, but I knew from the moment I heard her hit the ground that there was no way she could have survived.’
Jade studied his eyes. Watched him blink rapidly. He wasn’t quite blinking back tears, but emotion was there—so strong she could sense it, and she wondered what the nature of his relationship with Sonet had been.
A tragic accident. A partly opened parachute and a dead woman who had either lost her nerve and flubbed the jump or else simply been unlucky.
‘I need to know what really happened up there.’ Theron insisted.
Jade frowned. What had really happened up there after he had jumped was more than likely a secret that Sonet had taken to her grave.
Meet the Author
Jassy Mackenzie was born in Rhodesia and moved to South Africa when she was eight years old. She is the author of three previous Jade de Jong novels, Random Violence, Stolen Lives, and The Fallen, and she edits and writes for the annual publication Best of South Africa.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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What can I say about my love for this series? I love the feisty, pigheaded, smart, sassy & extreme hot sauce lovin Jade De Jong. This is book 4 in a series that just keeps getting better and better. Each book is a wealth of information on something I found that I knew nothing About, South Africa! I enjoy the language which trips around your mouth tying your tongue in knots and the names of some of the weird and wonderful foods like Boerewors, which is a sausage & Biltong, a type of cured meat. My heart broke for Jade in the 3d book “The Fallen” after she had booked a scuba diving Holiday In Saint Lucia with her on again, off again married but separated boyfriend Chief Superintendent David Patel, hoping to rekindle some of the romance, when he drops the bomb of his "estranged" wife's pregnancy! Then along comes smart, cute Environmentalist Craig Niewoudt, who I thought for sure would catch Jade’s heart, that is until a brutally murdered dive instructors body is found and then with a cliffhanger ending that nearly gave me a heart attack when… oops! You’ll just have to read that book to find out what happened! Alrighty then! “Pale Horses” the title of which took until p.212 to finally learn the meaning of. And it most definitely does fit the subject matter… Jade is nursing her bruised heart when she gets what she thinks is a simple case about base jumper Sonet Meintjies, who’s chute didn't open in a jump, leaving her to die and the friend who jumped with her hires P.I. Jade to find answers as to exactly what happened. What she discovers is a very large, wealthy & nasty company, who under the guise of a charity that Sonet worked for is pretending to help a small community farm in Limpopo with disease resistant seeds. But when people on this farm start to die horribly and disappear along with their livestock, Jade goes after the bad guys with gun in hand. What she finds out is that Sonet and her siblings had found damaging information against this company and then they too, start to die horribly and disappear... Jade soon realizes she has stepped off into a huge and very ugly conspiracy of a potentially global crime. This is another chilling, thrilling and all to real page turner that could be ripped straight from the headlines of any paper in any country in the world. Jassy Mackenzie has done it once again, this book will keep you up into the wee hours turning pages & biting your nails! I loved the Magdalena Eckhardt “bits” at the beginning and the end, they were wonderful!
Mackenzie has an amazing ability to lock into topics that may not seem understandable to common people, and making them easier to grasp by laying them out in a murder mystery. In this book, Jade faces politics, finances, and food on a global scale. Because these things have to be explained to her, they are in turn explained to the reader. It helps the reader get in touch with world issues and the culture of Jade’s community. She is a wonderful main character with flaws and hopes and baggage and a lot of love in her heart.
Total different style than I've been reading. Really liked it and the fast moving pace.
I was gifted the book by the author for an honest review. Jassy is a new author for me, but wow, what a great writer. Jassy will have 3 or 4 plots going on that really keep you wondering how does it all connect. In the end Jassy ties everything up with bright bow and big surprise. I will really have to go back and read her previous books to find out about the romance with Jade and David. Jade is a strong,kick-ass character, which makes for a great detective. David is a police detective, in a loveless marriage. This makes for a very interesting relationship. I definitely recommend a Jassy Mackenzie story for some mysterious, thrilling and little romantic story.
Jade de Jong reminded me of a dude. Let me just put that out there right now, so you're not left wondering later, and just in case you don't like chicks that act like dudes. Me, I have no strong reservations on the matter, and I'm all for equal opportunity. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that strong women...and men are interesting to me. Because it's not easy to perfect the bad*ss lassiez faire attitude with a devil may care grin plastered on your face. But Jade pulls it off. And she does it with a smoking body and smoking attitude. She's not afraid of anyone, and she's certainly not afraid to throw herself in the line of fire. David Patel is the yin to her yang, and it works. It really, really does. The South African setting with the swan dive courtesy of Sonet Meintjies off the sixty-five story Sandton skyscraper was a new twist to me in the eventful death arena, and I must say I rather enjoyed the unique approach, not necessarily the demise of said individual. I enjoyed the characters, the storyline, and the mystery fulfilled my attention, but I didn't feel like I was a stock car on the last lap of the track executing a mad dash to the checkered flag. Instead, I'd call it heightened curiosity without ever becoming completely immersed in PALE HORSES. But if unique deaths and unique settings are your thing, you'll find plenty of both here. I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. Robert Downs Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator