Book 15 – A book featuring an amateur detective – The Lazarus Effect by HJ Golakai

So, I rarely read pure detective novels. Usually there’s sci-fi or fantasy involved because those are the ones I enjoy the most. This book was no different as it had a fantasy element to it and did not disappoint.

Book blurb:

Voinjama Johnson is a woman on the brink of a dark, downward spiral. Suffering from misfortunes past and present, all Vee has is her work as an investigative journalist to hang on to. Now her career, like her sanity, is under fire. A revenant haunts Vee’s steps – during her blackouts, the ghost of a strange teenage girl in a red woollen hat keeps reaching out to her. Desperate for answers, she and her new assistant Chloe Bishop plunge into the disappearance of seventeen-year-old Jacqueline Paulsen.

As Vee and Chloe enter the maze of a case full of dead ends, the life of their intrepid missing girl reveals a family at odds – a dead half-brother, an ambitious father running from his past and the two women he has loved and ruined, a clutch of siblings with lies in their midst. How could a young girl leave home to play tennis one bright Saturday and never be seen again, and what do the dysfunctional circle of people she knew have to hide? Every thread Vee pulls in Jacqueline’s tight weave of intrigue brings her closer to redemption and an unravelling more dangerous than she bargained for.

In compelling and witty prose, The Lazarus Effect is an evocative tale of the underbelly and otherworld of love, murder and madness in a Cape Town that visitors seldom see. This is an enthralling debut by an exciting new author in the world of crime fiction.

Publisher: Cassava Republic

Pages: 353

Author Country : Currently lives in Liberia


Oh I really enjoyed this book. It’s been a very long time since I read a detective novel, mostly because I don’t particularly enjoy them, but yeah, this was a good one. The writing gets to the point straight away, taking you to Jacqueline’s past before plunging you into a very modern South Africa and into the present day with Vee. I’ve never been to Cape town and felt this book did it justice in making the reader view the upper crust, the ugly underbelly, and the ordinary everyday in a balanced way. You’re not bogged down with too much description. There’s just enough to keep the story moving and relevant, which is my favourite type of writing.

On the character front, I liked Vee. She was a very what-you-see-is-what-you-get woman; complicated, flawed and with a sense of her own justice that makes you sympathise with her every step of the way in trying to uncover this. We’re given glimpses of a traumatic past, which, while intriguing, I think really would have taken away from the story, so HJ’s decision to stay in the present, investigating this story, worked for me. WE get just enough information to understand the things Vee does, and just enough for us to hope maybe, in further books, that we’ll learn more about her past, if the writer chooses to show us more. But, it doesn’t affect what we know of her in the here and now of the story.

Gosh, that was a bit rambly but I hope you get what I meant there.

The other main character, Chloe Bishop, I was a bit “meh” about. I would have liked to get to know Chloe a little bit better. Other than the very quick, yucky way in which she gets a job, we don’t really get to know much of her. She’s enthusiastic, competent, just happy to be here, but….there’s something about her, more about her that I would have liked to know.

The families that are central to the investigation were well written. You get a sense of the pain Jacqueline’s mother goes through, the ripple effects that happen when there are secrets present in families  and when you lose a child. It’s all very sad and tugs at the heartstrings.

I could honestly go on and on about the various things I loved about this book, but then it would quickly become a non-spoiler free version. Suffice it to say the investigative part is gripping, the supernatural element is enough to hook you right in, and the human stories will keep you reading. As a debut novel of a series, I’m definitely looking forward to reading The Score, the next Vee Johnson mystery which is already out.


Beg, borrow or ask to be gifted the book for christmas, or borrow it from your local library. I purchased my book, and so can you by following this affiliate link for bookdepository Should you follow the link and buy a book, I’ll get 5% off the price of my next purchase, so give me some love if you. They provide free worldwide shipping so that’s an added bonus to their relatively low book prices.

Till next time,


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