Series: Vee Johnson
Book Number: 1
Read this book for: vibrant setting, intense and intimate mystery, believable and diverse characters, richly written narrative
Quick Review: This ticks all the boxes of the mystery novel but is so incredibly vivid and intensely real that it is well worth a look. It’s a refreshingly unique read!
Vee Johnson is an investigative journalist chasing the story of a missing girl in a red woolen hat that has been haunting her. Along with new assistant Claire Bishop, she sets out to find the truth about what happened to that girl, uncovering a dark and twisted family drama and putting herself in danger in the process.
THE LAZARUS EFFECT is the first novel by author H.J. Golakai, and the first in the Vee Johnson series, and it is a brilliant debut. Rich, twisted, exciting and real, it sucks you in and doesn’t let you go until the very end.
Part of what makes the book seem so real is the fantastic way that Golakai captures Cape Town, its various inhabitants and areas. A range of neighbourhoods, populations, jobs, and social statuses is canvassed, from the ultra-rich to the homeless, and it’s fascinating the way that they are described in such close proximity to one another, and in a way that they are all relatable. Golakai has crafted the novel with so many little interesting details that bring it to life, but this is strongest in her characters – for example, Vee Johnson’s accent and manner of speaking changes given her context and how comfortable she is with those around her.
The characters truly are one of the best parts of THE LAZARUS EFFECT. There is a range and diversity in this cast that is hard to find anywhere else, and they are all real, believable, individual characters. It’s this tapestry of characters that really makes the novel so rich and raises it above the levels of ‘just another crime story’. Vee’s backstory is still somewhat mysterious but interesting, Claire (and our introduction to her) rapidly became one of my favourite characters, and even the secondary characters were crafted with skill and care.
Combine those characters with an intimate mystery plot stemming from a family tragedy and you have a recipe for a fantastic story. The LAZARUS EFFECT does not disappoint on the plot side; Vee is not senselessly in danger, she makes real and sensible deductive strides based on typical investigative work – just talking to the people involved – and the way the investigation proceeds is believable but exciting. Although a supernatural element is sort of hinted at throughout, Golakai never takes the easy way out and uses it as a basis for any of the reasoning.
For a bright, refreshingly different crime novel, I would highly recommend picking up THE LAZARUS EFFECT; you will be swept away by its vibrancy and entranced by its plot!