Happy Endings: Diane Awerbuck Reviews Folly by Jassy Mackenzie
Erotica and humour are hard to write: fanny and funny do not, as a rule, mix. But Jassy Mackenzie has somehow pulled it off in her new novel, Folly, Umuzi’s local answer to Fifty Shades. Vivacious and witty, Folly is also a steely look at the issues that face us all as the long-term effects of our youthful mistakes become nauseatingly apparent.
It is a book that could only have been written by a person with some life experience. The novel, while it has many moments of humour, is essentially an economic horror story: the tale of what happens to a woman – “ten years too old and ten kilos too fat” – who has not been properly prepared for adulthood. The institutions she has trusted have failed Emma Caine: she is unemployed, her marriage is in tatters – her horrible husband Mark is comatose after a car accident – and the bank is coming for the house. Possession: no. Repossession: for sure.
But Folly, for all its jokes and jollification, is also the story of what a woman of character does to extricate herself from her nasty situation – and within the first five chapters Mistress Caine’s House of Pain is open for business, based in the black-painted cottage “folly” Emma’s Goth tenant has vacated without warning.
And what a lot of business her spanking-new dungeon sees! Emma is initially surprised by the number of clients she entertains, businessmen, one and all, as well as a judge and an architect named Simon Nel. Mackenzie isn’t squeamish, balancing some pretty hardcore penetration scenes with details of the scrubbing Emma does afterwards (“a ten-per cent bleach solution”) when her satisfied customers have tooled off in their luxury cars.
There are lots of sexy bits, given heft and authority by the author’s own years as a telephone dominatrix in Birmingham, but it is the cunning details – the set-ups and pay offs – that make Mackenzie the writer she is. No detail is unnecessary, and the pearl necklace described in the first couple of pages
comes into its own by the end of the book. Her five previous crime novels have made her prose neat, brisk and masterful, and when we compare her writing to, say, EL James’s, it becomes apparent who the boss really is.
These genres don’t get a lot of respect, and that’s a pity. In a world where people are allowed to make a mockery of the rules of social interaction, fictional crime and porn are needed more than ever: like Shakespearean drama, they end with the punishment of the guilty and the restoration of order. And that’s something worth reading.
That said, Simon, the love interest, is a yawn-fest, the only dull spot in the book – but then he’s there as a placeholder. In this genre there must always be a hetero hunk o’ burnin’ love, a man bland enough to slap someone else’s face on. Mackenzie doesn’t let them end in a tear-stained embrace,
though, leaving the door open for a sequel – which I hope is coming soon to a darkened room near you.
- Folly is published by Umuzi