The Lazarus Effect Review – An Exploration of Resilience, Empowerment, and Unyielding Pursuit


The Lazarus Effect, Liberian author Hawa J. Golakai’s debut novel, is one of the few crime fiction masterpieces. An exquisitely woven narrative that captivates both the mind and soul, ensnaring readers within its pages. The author skillfully crafts a tale that envelopes readers with its enthralling allure, evoking a sensation of vibrant immersion into the story’s fabric. The protagonist’s complexities are masterfully depicted, flawlessly navigating the delicate balance between imperfections and becoming a testament to the transformative power of resilience in the face of a shadowed history. Vee’s journey resonates as a mirror to real-life narratives, a conduit granting readers permission to merge their own experiences with the unfolding saga. Intertwined within the narrative’s unique contours are enigmatic curiosities that lend an unprecedented and enchanting quality to this literary gem. The narrative arcs, laden with intensity and engagement, span the gamut of emotions — from exasperating headshakes borne of frustration to the subdued hisses of disappointment as anticipated revelations remain elusive.

The author’s ingenuity extends to the meticulously constructed plot, replete with a rhythm that orchestrates the tale’s cadence. The language employed is nothing short of exquisite, a symphony of words that resonates with beauty. Infusing the tapestry of standard English with the rich hues of kolokwa (Liberian English) serves not only as a cultural nod but also as a reflection of the characters’ backgrounds. Characterization is rendered with a deft hand, breathing life into the figures populating the narrative canvas. Abiding by the age-old dictum of “show, don’t tell,” the author imbues two remarkable women — Vee, an indomitable and alluring pugilist, and Chloe, an aspiring young woman embracing her identity — with the agency to occupy roles that defy societal norms. This isn’t merely a crime novel centered around two women; it’s a beacon of empowerment, subtly asserting that women can command roles far beyond the conventional, urging the acceptance of diversity without casting individuals aside.

The author seamlessly conjures palpable images of real-life events that span the spectrum — from heart-wrenching familial tragedies and the specter of murder and abduction, to the pursuit of livelihood and the forging of relationships. Anchored in the character of Voinjama Johnson (Vee), a survivor of Liberia’s brutal civil strife, the narrative takes flight in the cosmopolitan realm of Capetown, South Africa, where she ascends to the post of a fashion magazine reporter. Her ascent isn’t a mere wish fulfilled, but a testament to her resilience. Battling the specters of PTSD and its accompanying manifestations, she tenaciously forges ahead, resolute to let bygones remain so. The shadows of her tumultuous past extend to her history with love, casting a somber pall over her present. Transformed into an investigative journalist, her profession becomes her sanctuary, a crucible wherein she pours her strength, resolve, and vexations. The ghostly specter of Jacqueline Paulsen, a seventeen-year-old whose life was truncated by tragedy, becomes the fulcrum upon which Vee’s purpose balances. Unraveling the layers obscuring Jacqui’s demise becomes a consuming obsession, a fervent endeavor demanding every ounce of her vigor and mettle. Vee’s existence hinges on her ability to wrench the truth from obscurity, a daunting journey that spans years, replete with determination and the tenacity to confront the shadows and unveil the light. The pursuit of justice becomes an unwavering mission, traversing the chasm of time to provide solace to a mother bereft of her treasured jewel.

Chloe’s entrance into Vee’s sphere is a turning point, as their fates intertwine with the enigma of Jacqui’s tragedy. As they embark on this shared quest, they unearth revelations that propel them deeper into the labyrinth of the case. Jacqueline Paulsen’s vibrant spirit and her yearning to be acknowledged in her father’s newly formed family paints a poignant picture, emblematic of a desire to transcend societal limitations. Her untimely disappearance on a radiant Saturday while playing tennis becomes a puzzle of profound gravity. Amidst a backdrop saturated with news of violence and disappearances, Vee and Chloe are driven to uncover the truth that eludes them, each answer birthing yet more questions.

In your hands, you hold a complete compendium of the quintessential crime novel, an offering that beckons you to immerse yourself within its pages. Procure a copy and traverse the realms of anguish and revelations.

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