Title: Red Ink
Author: Angela Makholwa
In a word: gripping. I love watching the TV show Criminal Minds, and reading Red Ink was like watching an extended show of it. Angela Makholwa writes boldly about the violence that is at the centre of her crime novel. She’s descriptive and does not shy away from the details of the blood and gore. In the same way that I cannot turn away from Criminal Minds, I could not stop reading.
Her main character, Lucy Khambule is a former crime reporter now turned PR consultant. She is contacted by the serial killer Napoleon Dingiswayo, who is serving a life sentence at C Max Prison for the serial murders of more than 40 women. He wants Lucy to write a book about him. For Lucy, an aspiring writer, this offer is intriguing and she agrees to do it. And so begins a series of meetings with Napoleon. I have to admit that the scenes of the meetings seemed unrealistic – Lucy’s naiveté, despite her savvy nature, was not believable. It is clear to the reader, from the very first meeting that Dingiswayo’s motives go beyond him wanting to be immortalised in a book.
Central to the unfolding drama of meetings with the serial killer; of Lucy starting her own business after the murder of her business partner; and of the sinister presence of Sifiso – Napoleon’s younger brother – is the Sponsor. He is the mastermind behind Dingiswayo’s book proposal to Lucy, behind Sifiso’s business dealings, and moreover the new love in Lucy’s best friend Funde’s life. Sifiso, Napoleon’s younger brother is the scariest of the characters in Makholwa’s book. He is a well drawn character who fills the chilling moments in the book, without saying much at all.
I enjoyed Red Ink for its fast pace and racy dialogue, but not so much for its neatly packaged ending. An enjoyable read.