Zinzi December grew up rich and privileged, but her drug addiction led to the death of her brother and jail time. Now she lives in Zoo City, the ghetto for the animalled--people who are guilty of something so bad that an inexplicable force gave them an animal, which they are connected to for life. They cannot be separated from their animal without great pain. Animals are a source of shame and social stigma, and with a sloth in tow, Zinzi is forced out of journalism and into working odd jobs. With her creditor making increasing demands, she decides to take a lost persons case.
This is an unexpectedly lively book, with a strong, unique voice to the main character. The Johannesburg of the future is a bustling contrast of wealth and poverty, technology and old magics. Zinzi's friends and contacts are each interesting puzzles in their own right. The action is bloody, the magic rightfully scary, and the plot as twisted as classic noir. It was all too grim for my taste, but the darkness felt earned, not pasted on to earn cool points. (My one real caveat is the last chapter, which feels a little abrupt.)