4 out of 4 stars
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Loraine Tulleken’s The Judas Effect brings intrigue into a religiously, economically and politically fueled murder mystery set in modern South Africa. Scandal both in the church and the government are intertwined with a complex set of characters with their own problems to bring the reader a multifaceted story that leaves them wondering what will happen in the end. Plot twists abound throughout the story, keeping the reader in suspense.
Protagonist Archbishop Sibonelo Shakespeare Khumalo, known to those close to him as Shakes, is a likeable religious leader in the South African Episcopalian community. There are those who have a quest for power that would just as soon see him defrocked and out of their way as they work their way up the political ladder of the church. The murder of former Archbishop Frank Johnson and his mistress just might help them get their way.
Shakes puts together a team to investigate the gruesome murder when it appears that the police have been ordered by the powers to be in the national government to make all evidence disappear. Note that the horrific method of the murder is described in an extremely explicit manner, which some readers might find disturbing. Shakes and his team wonder “why?” What did Frank and Su Zhang know that was so important that it got them killed? As Shakes team investigates, they find very strange collaborations between high-ranking South African officials and Su’s husband, one of China’s richest men. Was Su’s husband or some of his business interests involved? Why did the South African government official, Elizabeth Chuene, care so much about what the Chinese and North Koreans were doing? How are these things related? What does Shakes’ childhood friend, Godfrey, have to do with all of this? Why was his friend Enoch killed as well? Team member Viki’s encounter with a former colleague leads to more intriguing questions that send Viki to Namibia, where major plot twists that change the course of the investigation are discovered.
The more they delve, the more sinister things get, as it is clear that something more, something big is going to happen. South Africa might not survive if Shakes and his team cannot get the support they need to stop the church and other factions from gaining quick and abrupt power. While all of this is going on, Shakes relationships with his wife and daughter are tested. Relationships between other team members are also dealt with, as people realize what is important in life.
The influence of religion reminds this reviewer of the power one has seen from the Catholic Church during different time periods. For example, during the Middle Ages, the church’s power of the monarchies in Europe made it abundantly clear that the church was in charge, and many of the royalty were puppets of the Pope. Religious power was subdued after the Middle Ages’, but there are still major influences from various religious institutions on politics, both in this story and in real life. Religion and government are intermingled, either officially or unofficially, whether wanted or not by the people, as is demonstrated in The Judas Effect. In this story, both institutions demonstrate power struggles that influence the entire institution and those impacted by the institution. One can also discern that there are many who are there for the right reasons, doing their very best to do the right thing for all involved.
Loraine Tulleken’s The Judas Effect is the second story in her two part Archbishop Shakes Khumalo Mystery Series. Leopard In The Night is the prequel to The Judas Effect; having only read The Judas Effect, I wish I had been able to read the prequel first, as I believe it would have helped in understanding some of the characters a bit more. That said, the story does work as a standalone; it would just have been better with the prequel.
I give The Judas Effect 4 out of 4 stars. This was one of those stories that I just could not put down. It brought out so many emotions, from extreme happiness to forlornness to anger. At the end of the story, I wanted to sit down and have a cup of coffee with Shakes, just so I could delve into his heart a bit more, as this is a character that throws his heart into whatever he is doing.
The Judas Effect
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