Thursday, April 13, 2017

Ghost Town

Jassy Mackenzie for Michael - Thursday

Jassy Mackenzie was born in Zimbabwe, moved to South Africa when she was eight years old, and now lives near Johannesburg on a small farm with her partner, two horses, and two cats. She says she loves the energy, danger, and excitement of Johannesburg, and believes there is no better place for a thriller writer to live.

She has written four successful thrillers set in South Africa and featuring her private investigator, Jade de Jong, a complex character with an ambivalent background, who goes looking for trouble when it doesn’t find her. She’s also been exploring other genres, but I’m delighted that she’s returned to thrillers and to Jade with BAD SEEDS released in the US by Soho this month. I loved the book, and talked to Jassy about it in ITW's Africa Scene this month. James Patterson is impressed too. She's just published a Bookshot novel PRIVATE GOLD with him and his team.

In her guest blog today, Jassy tells a very different type of  story...

I’ve never thought of Johannesburg as being an especially spiritual place. Brash, expanding, money-driven, yes. A place where lost souls, ghosts and spirits roam, where the thin veil separating worlds can easily be drawn aside… no, not really.

Sometimes, though, I wonder if I’m wrong.

As far as the spiritual world goes, I can’t see ghosts. I am blind, deaf and dumb in that regard. They don’t appear for me and never have. As a writer, I think it’s a pity, because I’d love to see one, but that’s just the way it is. Maybe ghosts are like cats… they won’t come to the people who really want to interact with them.

I have friends who live in a perfectly ordinary suburb of Johannesburg; a normal residential area with treed streets and old houses. Their house is a happy place; a sprawling home full of children and adopted pets. Some years back – I think it was soon after they moved in – they were haunted by a ghost.

He was a playful, naughty creature and they worked out that he was a little boy. Some nights, they used to hear their young children talking to him. He was a mischievous presence who had a particular obsession with potato peelers. No matter how many they bought, the potato peelers would disappear within days. But occasionally, they’d turn up in weird and random places. From time to time, other things would go missing, too. For them, this was all perfectly normal – the ghost was a part of the family along with the one eyed ancient bulldog and the kitten they found in a drain and the cat with half a tail.

One evening while the family was out, they had a burglary. They came home to find the place had been broken into and ransacked. The TV and hi-fi had been stolen of course, along with some jewelry which was expensive, and also had sentimental value. Living in Johannesburg, they did what we all do. They told themselves they were lucky nobody had been home at the time. They managed the disaster and contacted their insurance company, got the insured items replaced and tried to forget about the irreplaceable stuff. They went on with their lives – except one night, after they had been out again, they returned home to find the missing jewelry. It was in a pile in the middle of the bed.
I wouldn’t have believed this story if my friends hadn’t told me themselves, over a few drinks, during one of our get-togethers. It raises so many questions. Did this friendly spirit hide the jewelry before the burglars reached it? Did he somehow go out and get it back for them? How exactly did any of this happen?

There’s no logical explanation… but that doesn’t mean there is no explanation. If I were blind, deaf and dumb, I wouldn’t know about music and song, the beauty of a sunset, or that you can communicate with someone using only your eyes or a whisper. They say that sailors of old who navigated by the stars, could see them even in daylight. Maybe there are other skills that we modern humans, glued to our smart phones and living in our frenetic world, are losing the ability to do. Perhaps the old Scottish prayer about “Ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night” is not as quaint and silly as it seems. Because the veil might not blow back often… but when it does, I think there’s a world waiting for those who are able to see.

You can contact Jassy on Facebook, and Twitter @JassyMackenzieAuthor


Murder Is Everywhere

Author Recognitions and Events


April 28-26
Malice Domestic
Hyatt Regency
Bethesda, Maryland
Panel: The British Empire
(FYI- Sujata and I will be on the same panel!!!)

May 31
Janet Rudolph Literary Salon:
"The History of Hot Places: Clashes between Colonialism and Local Cultures”
Joint appearance with Michael Cooper

Jun 11
Books NJ
Sounds of the Paramus Library
Panel: How to Write (and Read) Mystery
Signing at the MWA-NY Booth

June 16-18
Deadly Ink Conference
Hilton Garden Inn
Rockaway, New Jersey


Murder in Saint Germain, Aimée Leduc’s next investigation, comes out June 6, 2017.


Paper back of Rat Run published 28th March.


"The Olive Growers,” appears in BOUND BY MYSTERY, an anthology edited by Diane DiBiasi celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Poisoned Pen Press, out in March.


Dying to Live (Kubu #6) to be released in May in UK & South Africa and in October in USA

May 19-21   
Franschhoek Literary Festival (Michael).

May 20        
Panel :One Voice, Two Authors with Alex Latimer and Diane Awerbuck 11:30 - 12:30

May 21        

Panel: The Author as Chemist with Joanne Harris and Ekow Duker 11:30 - 12:30


  1. Welcome, Jassy, and congratulations on the new book. I love this story. I have had only one encounter with a ghost, one night when I was alone in a big old house on the banks of the Ohio River--a guest house that belonged to client company. I didn't know the place was hunted, but I heard Miss Ellie in the middle of the night. I never saw her, and she quieted down once I gave her what she wanted, which was to open a window. I went back to sleep. I like your story a lot because I like ghosts. Why should we be afraid of them? If they could really hurt us, we would have evidence of that. NO?

  2. I've always been attached to potato peelers, and am glad to see that your friends had a ghost with a discriminating (potato) eye. Best of luck with BAD SEEDS--which I assume has nothing to do with potatoes but I still can't wait to read!

  3. Jassy congratulations! So glad Jade is baaaaack!

  4. What a fascinating (and somewhat scary!) story! Thank you for sharing it. I always used to say I believed in ghosts mainly so they wouldn't feel the need to prove their existence to me personally - but after meeting one in a graveyard in Japan, I'm FIRMLY in the camp of the believers.

    I hope your friends bought their ghostly friend plenty of potato peelers after that!