Read of the Week

Captive

Tony Park

Macmillan

Review: Karen Watkins

In the past decade 7 245 African rhino have been lost to poaching, according to Save the Rhino International, with 1028 during 2017 against seven in 2000 and only 13 in 2007.

In Tony Park’s latest offering he shines a spotlight on the Kruger National Park where rhinos are said to number between 7000 and 8300 in 2016. Poaching is down but is still significantly up in other provinces, particularly KwaZulu-Natal.

What is unsettling in Captive is how poachers are using sophisticated technology to track and kill these animals that are sometimes still alive and occasionally have a calf nearby that witnesses its mother having its horn hacked off.

However, the story is not a gloomy one. It’s one of a love, of nature and conservation, combined with the passion of people who are willing to put their own lives in danger in the war on poaching. In this action-packed thriller Park takes us between Ukuphile Wildlife Orphanage in Kruger and Massingir in Mozambique.

Kerry Maxwell, an Australian lawyer flies into South Africa to volunteer through Animals Without Borders, and is supposed to be met by soldier turned burned-out, borderline alcoholic, wildlife vet Graham Baird. Instead, wide-eyed, eager but naïve Kerry finds that Graham is in jail in Mozambique following a shoot-out with a poacher when he goes to rescue a baby elephant.

Enter corrupt politician and kingpin poacher Fidel Costa, brother to the man Graham killed in the gunfight. Fidel demands revenge, Kerry makes her way to Mozambique to free Graham but is attacked and kidnapped.

Captive is an exhilarating story filled with charismatic characters who pit their might against those involved with well-meaning charities and their varied viewpoints on rhino conservation. It’s also the story of Kerry and Graham’s evolving relationship.

Park captures the beauty, complexity and danger of Africa in this refreshing thriller, which is based on reality.

Captive is Tony Park’s 15th book. Among his other African novels are An Empty Coast, Red Earth, and The Cull. Born in 1964 in Sydney, Australia, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, a government press secretary, a PR consultant, and a freelance writer. He also served 34 years in the Australian Army Reserve, including six months as a public affairs officer in Afghanistan in 2002.

He and his wife, Nicola, divide their time equally between Australia and southern Africa.