I'm reading my way around the recent burst of South African crime fiction, and Makholwa's is so marketed -- and its central plot device seems to have the generic trappings: a serial killer, known for violence against women, contacts an upwardly-mobile public-relations exec and asks her to write his story. (Didn't Clint Eastwood do this movie?) But the book keeps--intriguingly--blurring, ignoring, sneaking out of crime and into Sex and the City
territory. For the crime reader, it's a head-scratcher: why all this chatter between the exec and her best friend about their clothes, about boyfriends?
I have to admit--either version seemed a bit awkward, a bit undercooked. If it's a story of the problems and possibilities of mobility, friendship, and romance, Red Ink
loses touch with character too often, veering into awkwardly-inserted bits of narrative happening. If it's suspense, forward motion goes skidding off the tracks as we spend long passages meandering around details, sidetracks. And the last third rushes about, tying the knots of the many plot threads with a crazy, coincidence-prone, exposition-heavy clumsiness.
BUT. I really enjoyed the character stuff, was fascinated by where the novel went when it didn't seem to be focused on that sensational Villain and instead simply captured urban and rural mindsets, the pervasive sexism (and violence) which affects these women. The book has that pop-cultural confusion about class -- it wants its characters to succeed (and get Flash!, natch), but not lose their roots and not seem *cough cough* rich....
So I'd recommend it on a couple fronts (as an intriguing foray into popular fiction, as the first work of a writer worth following, as a complicated exemplar of the new crime wave in SA lit), but it's not too successful as "just a read."