Crime spoils a holiday for Jade de Jong in The Fallen, Jassy Mackenzie’s fourth mystery featuring the South African PI.

How did you choose environmental terrorism as a backdrop?

Jade decides to holiday in the beautiful St. Lucia Wetlands Park so that she can visit her mother’s grave. Johannesburg, Jade’s usual territory, is notorious for its high level of violent crime, whereas St. Lucia is quiet and relatively crime free. This presented me with a challenge. Why on earth would a syndicate of hardcore criminals be operating in such a peaceful, out-of-the-way place? After researching the area, I was shocked to discover how fragile this estuarine environment actually is, and how close big business has come to damaging it in the past. I realized that the biggest threat would be an act of environmental sabotage. The setting itself dictated the crime.

Is Jade’s quest to uncover the truth about her mother’s past a continuing theme that you knew you wanted to explore when you began the series?

I knew I wanted to create a complex, strong, flawed heroine who was different from the norm. One of the ways I decided to set Jade apart was by having her mother die soon after Jade’s birth, which gave her a tough and rather fragmented childhood, traveling around the country with her police commissioner father with no female role models in sight.

Was it more challenging to set Jade outside her usual territory?

Jade often has difficulty with her Johannesburg police contacts because many of them are aware of her shady past and connections with criminals. The only contact she can truly rely on is Det. Supt. David Patel. He’s the one who smooths the path and persuades other detectives that it’s worthwhile cooperating with her. So in a way it’s easier for Jade, because she’s operating in an area where she’s not known, and she also has the advantage of dealing with an inexperienced and fairly naïve detective who’s only too willing to play into her hands.

Jade trusts few people other than David Patel, but their relationship takes a beating.

Sometimes I feel sorry for Jade because the situation between her and David becomes more complicated and difficult to resolve with every book. I know I’m the one writing the story and I should be able to turn things around and give her a happy ending if I really wanted to, but the problem is it’s not that simple. The chain of events that has been set into motion has to play out now. All I can do is keep writing and see into what dark places it leads.