Mystery Books for Sale

[ Home ]
[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]


by Will Staples
Blackstone Publishing, March 2022
304 pages
ISBN: 1094065889

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Will Staples's ANIMALS is a book with quite a pedigree. Screenwriter Staples wrote it with Hollywood in mind, and it will be adapted as a movie produced by and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It's being touted by Jane Goodall as the book that "will help people realize the horrors of global wildlife trafficking." Staples will donate the proceeds of the book to conservation efforts. It's intended not so much as a reading experience but advance publicity for the forthcoming blockbuster. In that aim, it succeeds.

ANIMALS is a novel about animal poaching. Evidently, the film will give poaching and trafficking of endangered species outside the United States the BLOOD DIAMOND treatment. The novel's hero is Afrikaner anti-poaching authority Cobus Venter. Presumably, this is the DiCaprio role. He doesn't work for the TSA or the WWF: instead, he stalks the South Africa-Mozambique border with a big gun, protecting the white rhino mothers and babies. He has a sidekick, a woman named Basani, widowed by poachers. When the poachers kill a white rhino mother and Basani, Cobus Venter goes on the warpath. Consumers of rhino horn will die. Unfortunately, at the same time in Hong Kong, an educated police detective is tempted to buy rhino horn from a dodgy Chinese Traditional Medicine practitioner to save her son, who is terminally ill with cancer. Why despite her education she would believe the horn peddler Staples does not explain.

Staples puts these two on a collision course that takes them and other characters around the world, from the casinos of Macau ("the Las Vegas of the New Territories") to Guantanamo Bay, where a Sumatran jihadi might have knowledge about tiger poaching.

I am utterly sympathetic to the problem of poaching. I'm a pet owner, a vegetarian, and a farmer. Still, I found this novel grating. Throughout all the interconnected stories, the poachers are mostly African or Asian, and their reasons for poaching endangered species aren't fully fleshed out. Our hero is Afrikaner--the white South Africans who maintained apartheid as recently as, probably, Venter's own childhood. This is worth pointing out because the poacher characters are motivated by "terrorism," or war, or poverty. They play larger roles in this story than the dentist on the illegal big game hunt who made the news for poaching endangered species a few years ago. This makes it very easy for readers to get outraged without being able to change the situation. What are the causes of terrorism, war, and poverty? No Hugo or Zola, Staples isn't really concerned about structural realities. The way to stop poaching, apparently, is not to address its causes, but to police the baddies--with cool, macho, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE optics.

The novel ANIMALS reveals that the film will be a fairly typical Hollywood action-adventure piece. It's got the usual ingredients: square-jawed white male hero with a Byronic burden of secret grief and guilt, relatable young woman scientist, guns, planes, and vendettas. Characterization takes a back seat to action, and the cliffhangers punctuate that action effectively.

Reviewed by Rebecca Nesvet, March 2022

[ Top ]



Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]
[ Home ]