Nick Brownlee

Piatkus £6.99 pbk

Released: 1st July 2010

Reviewed by L J Hurst


Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung

I missed Nick Brownlee’s first two Jake and Jouma novels, but Machete, his third, is so good I intend to hunt them out. What have I enjoyed about it? The exotic location of Mombasa in Kenya, the increasing layers of mystery, the lack of a simple solution, but most of all the black humour. The black humour that made James McClure’s Kramer and Zondi police procedurals, set in apartheid South Africa, so awful and so appealing re-appears here in characters losing their heads all too literally, pathologists over-worked but consequently also walking encyclopaedias of unnatural death, naïve new officers intent on justice, homicidal lunatics with distant marshes in which to make their lairs, and ordinary people going about their everyday affairs about which they find it easier to tell lies. Oh, and egotism, and near all-pervasive corruption. Oh, and vengeance. Not necessarily in that order, though.

“Jouma” is Detective Inspector Daniel Jouma of Coast Province CID, while “Jake” is Jake Moore, now running boat trips on the coast, having retired from the Metropolitan Police, or rather Jake should be running boat trips but he ended Burn, the second book in the series, in rather a bad way and he spends much of Machete in recuperation.

As a lunatic seems to be going around Mombasa beheading unfortunate individuals using the eponymous blade, perhaps Jake is lucky that he is not available for involuntary mortality, but as the mayor and other authorities are keen to avoid the potential loss of the tourist trade that would follow upon white visitors being warned they are most at risk – only one in five of the victims is native born – and so has ensured that the threat of a serial killer has not reached the newspapers, Jake is unlikely to learn of the threat. On the other hand, journalists writing feelgood fillers for the news space tend to grow a little frustrated at being held back; one of them might go looking for Jake, as he seems to have had similar experiences before. In the meantime DI Jouma takes the investigation forward.

The trouble with serial killers is that their wake of death becomes a bit like the rubbish skip once booked by Victor Meldrew; turn your back for a moment and someone has dropped one of theirs in it. The trouble for the police is that neither butcher nor fly-killer (if that is the murderous equivalent of a fly-tipper) wants to leave any evidence, and it takes some sieving through.

Luckily for Jouma he has a new assistant who can access databases and do sieving both literal and metaphorical. Unluckily it means the case is even more complicated than it appears, and even more unluckily it means talking to some individuals with authority who would rather the whole thing went away. Jouma does not find life easy.

And all that is why I like Machete. Get your copy now. Chop, chop.






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