This is the first book I have read featuring Jade De Jong, a South African private detective, though it is the third in which she appears. As it opens Jade is in the resort area of St Lucia for a diving holiday with her boyfriend, a policeman. She booked the trip to overcome her fear of diving and to shore up the somewhat rocky relationship with David Patel. But even though she receives private lessons from the instructor she is unable to overcome her fear of drowning and fully embrace the sport and the holiday turns truly rotten when David drops a bombshell about their relationship. Before the two can discuss their future the diving instructor is found stabbed to death and David (with Jade in tow) steps in to help the locals with the investigation.
I found the plot of THE FALLEN uneven, slow to get going really as several threads of unequal interest were set up, including a somewhat confusing tale about Jade trying to find the grave of her mother who died when Jade was a baby. For me the pacing was thrown off by the terribly obvious and drawn out clue-hunting, and then at one point I thought the book had finished and was rather astonished to find there were still 6 and a half chapters (a couple of hours) of the audio book left . The thread that deals with what happens after the diving instructor’s body is found – and the truly horrible plan Jade uncovers – was for me the best part of the book; responsible for a genuine OMG moment when it became clear what was going on.
I should be fair and say that some of my problems with the book are probably not the author’s fault. The fact is I didn’t really take to Jade De Jong. This doesn’t mean she is a poorly drawn character (objectively I can see she is not and is indeed quite realistic) but I couldn’t summon up much interest in whether or not she got out of her various tight spots and near-death experiences. Just as you sometimes meet someone in real life and know you’re never going to be anything other than acquaintances without really knowing why, I just didn’t particularly like the character from the outset. As the book went on I found reasons not to like her, such as her somewhat hypocritical morality which seemed to boil down to the notion that it’s OK to do bad things (such as kill people) as long as the victims are not innocent (as deemed by whoever is doing the killing), but my not liking her preceded me discovering this about her.
I’m not entirely sure this book knew what it wanted to be. At times it read like an old-fashioned whodunnit, though with De Jong making a bit of a fist of the kind of denouement that Holmes or Poirot could perform with aplomb. I cannot possibly, for example, be the only reader to have been internally screaming “there are more than passengers on an airplane you dolt” as Jade very slowly worked this out as if for an audience of dim-witted, third graders. At other times the book read like a modern thriller with loads of action and heroine-in-peril scenarios. Personally I think this aspect of the book worked better, especially as it allowed the author to depict several aspects of modern South African life which was a real strength of the novel.
If I could separate my enjoyment of the book from my disinterest in its protagonist I would undoubtedly rate it higher as overall it did maintain my interest, especially with the excellent narration of the audio version from Justine Eyre. But in the end this has to be about my reaction to the book and frankly I can’t imagine myself picking up another book featuring this character (though I would give the author another go if she wrote something with a different character in it or at least taking the lead role).
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My rating 2.5/5
Narrator Justine Eyre
Publisher AudioGO 
Length 10 hours 16 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Book Series #3 in Jade De Jong series
Source I bought it
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