Suzanne Fessey pulls her car into a rest stop to deal with her vomiting baby. She is carjacked and before she can react, the thief drives off in her car with her baby, triggering an epic manhunt across scorching Kwazulu-Natal.
- Tony Parks
The US ambassador is killed in Durban, leaching manpower and resources from the police who would’ve searched for the missing baby. The task then falls to feisty helicopter pilot Nia Carras and bushranger Mike Dunn, who team up to track the missing baby but they encounter a web of intrigue, poaching and terrorism that embroils not just Africa, but the US as well.
It is difficult to continue with a precis of this book without spoiling the storyline’s natural twists and turns, which flow evenly and logically throughout the novel, so I’m not going to!
This is the first Tony Park book I’ve read and am impressed by his rejection of stereotypes and use of believable characters. The storyline is pacy without feeling frantic and delivers on the promises of action and peril.
Early on in the book, Mike Dunn is attending the site of some dead vultures and because of the research that's gone into that short section, I’ve learnt more about vultures in one chapter than my whole life to date. Perhaps I’m not the only one, but I would be happy reading a Mike Dunn story, where nothing extraordinary happens, he’s just going about his business in the bush.
The wildlife are characters in their own right and just as deadly as the terrorists. In the temperate UK, there’s no reason to be wary of wildlife – a squirrel is just not going to be dangerous to you. It was interesting to read a book where mankind is not at the top of the food chain in other places of the world. There is a gripping reminder of that truth midway through the book, involving the baby and a leopard.
I do have a couple of minor gripes with the book though and they’re just enough to stop it from receiving top marks.
Some of the characters are thinly sketched and could’ve used more backstory to flesh them out into living, breathing people, with nuanced histories and motivations.
The other main gripe is that the author assumes that the reader is familiar with the geography and terminology used in Africa, which I’m certainly not. More than once I found myself googling both words to understand colloquial terms and maps to try and get a greater sense of where the action was happening. It was a minor annoyance, Google is only a click away, but a few descriptive words for the uninitiated would’ve prevented being dragged out of the story to do a little research.
These are minor moans, though and don’t detract too much from my enjoyment of the story.
Red Earth is very much in the same mould as classic Clive Cussler or Jack Higgins and conjures images of searing, beautiful, deadly Africa. It’s so authentic, you can almost taste the dust in your mouth and the blazing sun on your neck.
Four out of five laughing hyenas.