The second Reshma Patel and Ian Jack thriller by NR Brodie, Three Bodies, is here and, if you enjoyed the first one as much as I did, you can get excited. Yes, it’s also available as an ebook and Brodie has announced on social media that she will be donating all her royalties from the sales during the lockdown to the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce supporting sex workers in this time of crisis when they are at risk more than ever.
In Three Bodies, the risk to the three women who are discovered dead in different bodies of water around Gauteng comes from a dark source. At first, the cases seem unrelated and, when Ian Jack comes across the first one during an investigation in which he helps to trace a security guard gone missing, and his partner Reshma Patel discovers a severed finger and a stash of money and guns next to two corpses deep underground in Johannesburg’s tunnels while also pursuing a missing person case, they find it difficult to connect the dots. Both finds are accidental, but Reshma’s has immediate consequences for her career when she takes a bold step behind her superior’s back and contacts another unit to investigate the gruesome crime scene she stumbles upon.
As in Knucklebone, the first book in the series, Brodie offers a cast of fascinating characters. Is Myburgh, the ex-cop turned head of security for a group of housing estates, past his best? Despite his impeccable credentials, can Super Sobukwe be trusted after it comes to light that he might have put Reshma and her new colleague, Wayde Claassen, carelessly in lethal danger? And who is the fierce Angela de Bruyn from the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin trying to protect? Do mermaids exist?
It was good to see MaRejoice from Knucklebone return with all her wisdom and intuition. And Joburg is there in all its gore, grit and glory again. Having written a lot of non-fiction about South African cities, Brodie knows a thing or two about how to portray a metropolis like Johannesburg with aplomb. There were a few descriptive passages of characters’ comings and goings when the writing slowed down to a pace that reduced the impact of the narrative, but the vivid cash-in-transit heist scenes and the final showdown of the novel made up for a lot in the page-turning department.
Knucklebone does not have to be read before you can dive into Three Bodies, yet the private and professional relationships between Reshma and Ian are better understood if you know how they have developed since the spectacular ending of Brodie’s debut novel. The magic realism elements of the first book are toned down in the latest, but are used to a great effect towards the end of the novel, allowing us to wonder at the reality we think we know.
Review first published in the Cape Times on 8 May 2020.