Most people go to lodges in the Little Karoo to get away from it all. Vee Johnson didn’t want to go in the first place, and she definitely didn’t go to explain how a man came to be hanged with her scarf. Her response is to show that you can put a crime reporter on a travel assignment but you can’t stop her investigating.
Vee’s scarf is the thread that unravels a tangle of corruption in the glass towers housing the businesses of Cape Town, but what lifts The Score above most thrillers is that the thriller element is balanced with Vee’s numerous dysfunctional relationships with colleagues, friends, lovers and her eleven-year old dogsitter, all of which was conveyed with humour and whipcrack dialogue.
Vee Johnson is such a strong protagonist because she’s simultaneously someone I’ve been and someone I wish I could be. Like most people, I’ve found myself on the wrong end of office politics in the same way that Vee does. I don’t need to imagine how frustrated she was by that. But if I stumbled on a murder, I’d go home, watch Sherlock and fantasise about being the sort of person who would sink my teeth into the mystery and not let go until I’d revealed all the facts to the world. In short, a person like Vee Johnson.
The Score is the second Vee Johnson novel, the first being The Lazarus Effect. The bad news is that they were published in South Africa and until the last couple of weeks, have only been available as ebooks to the rest of the world. The good news is that since Cassava Press launched The Lazarus Factor in the UK, that at least is now available as a hardcopy through Amazon US, UK, etc.
Full disclosure: HJ Golakai is a friend of mine, and I was a beta reader for The Score. I didn’t have a lot of suggestions to make because even as a draft, it already belonged in the top rank of crime fiction. If HJ published in the UK or USA, I’m her two novels would give her a place in the top rank of crime writers. Hopefully she will now find that place, and no doubt Vee Johnson has many more adventures to keep her there.