A couple months ago I decided to check out Blind Date with a Book. It’s an Australian store that wraps books in brown paper and string, so you can’t judge the book by it’s author/title/cover etc. I decided to give it a shot.
First of all, the book arrived really quickly. That was a nice surprise, especially considering how far it had to travel. The book looked so nice all wrapped up, I almost didn’t want to open it. Almost.
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes is exactly as described on the wrapping. It’s an urban fantasy/noir detective story wrapped up in a really unique plot.
Zinzi has a Sloth on her back, a dirty 419 scam habit and a talent for finding lost things. But when a little old lady turns up dead and the cops confiscate her last paycheck, she’s forced to take on her least favourite kind of job – missing persons. – Goodreads
Beukes has created a fascinating, kind of terrifying world. People who are responsible for a death, be it by accident, self-defence or murder, become animaled. A wild animal finds the person, and becomes psychically linked to them. Being away from their animal is actually painful, and they have a wordless communication with them. Most animaled people develop some kind of psychic talent – Zinzi is able to ‘see’ the ties linking people to lost objects and even lost people. But the talent comes with a price; if your animal dies, you are taken by hell’s Undertow. Trust me, it’s as terrifying as it sounds.
Zinzi lives in a slum in Johannesburg, nicknamed Zoo City – animaled people find some protection living there. Zinzi uses her talent to find lost things for a price, until her current client ends up dead. The plot spins off from there into a deeply layered mystery that Zinzi is unwillingly forced to participate in.
This book is gritty and dark, and definitely doesn’t have a happy ending. But the pacing is tight, the world building fantastic, and I found myself actually caring about Zinzi’s well being. I wish there was a sequel; I guess I’ll have to settle by tracking down Beukes’ other books – I’m now a fan. Zoo City is a solid 4/5.