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ISBN 9 780994 680501
In Paradise Place Clinic, Dr Max Kramer runs a mad house – literally and figuratively. He sells it on the online brochure as a high end rehab centre while in reality, it is anything but.
This is a place where people come to die, oops, to be murdered. The infirm especially stand no chance of living beyond the time frame set by Dr Kramer, whose only interest is keeping the debit orders from the loved ones running. As far as they are concerned, by the odd chance that they’d care – which Dr Kramer knows they don’t, their loved ones continue to get good care from the clinic.
The truth is that they are long dead!
Dr Kramer’s simple argument is that he’s providing an essential service to those going on a chicken run Down Under so they go away with a clear conscience while he takes care of their burden – unwanted kith and kin.
But his operation is as clear as it is cold – fewer beds, but the wards fully subscribed. They intake is only full on paper and his bank account.
The patients are as varied as are their respective addictions. From Sybilla, the glutton to Sir, the former pedagogue, they are each as soft in the head as those tasked with nursing them.
The nursing duo of Tariq and Nina are former patients, in that position because Dr Kramer knows full well how malleable they are towards his slave-master tendencies.
They can also help him keep a secret of the actual goings-on at the slaughterhouse and scam he parades as a psychiatric clinic.
Or so he thought.
The eccentricities of each character make Joanne Hichens a master of creating the perfect mad character.
Nina, for example, is a marvel to behold, a true blue lunatic. Nowhere near pretty in the looks department, she goes out all to embellish her appearance with a wardrobe full of cheap ill-fitting attire and equally trashy make-up.
She is a sex addict who gets her fix from immobile patients who she molests to get it up. Her ultimate love interest and promise of a fulfilling sex life is on Jean Pierre, presently an incarcerated felon.
This is a book of fiction but it gains its strength from the meticulous research on the prison system – especially the gang culture – at Pollsmoor where the jail scenes are set.
The wily gangs are so credible through these pages Sweet Paradise could be a documentary.
Heather Parker Lewis, an authority on the subject of gangs, donated the research to the book. The prison life is just but one of the standout features of the book.
Parker tells this reviewer in a Facebook post that she does a lot of work in this area.
The beauty of Seffrican is that the contemporary English novel can be successfully written with huge dollops of help from Afrikaans patois, especially as spoken in Cape Town.
It is such seamless writing that it requires no glossary.
Dr Kramer could easily have got away with murder – several of them – had Rae Valentine, a PI down on her luck, not taken the job to locate a missing young woman.
The last her parents heard of her, Faith was admitted at Paradise Place. But as is the inevitable fate of Dr Kramer’s patients, Faith disappears.
Rae finds enough compulsion to get herself admitted to the clinic – under the guise of being a cellular phone addict. Her partner, Vince Saldana is also a patient at the clinic, battling his demons, the bottle.
While the twists and turns do not equal a literary coup de grace, the horror of what Rae uncovers should worry you as it heralds the end of the book.
Nearly Nina’s next victim herself, when Rae comes to she uncovers a whole can of worms.
Sweet Paradise is in contention as a fine specimen of the SA crime novel.
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