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STALKING IVORY
by Suzanne Arruda
NAL, January 2007
352 pages
$23.95
ISBN: 0451220269


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

After volunteering as an ambulance driver in World War I, brave Jade del Cameron spends her time now as an adventurer and photographer in Africa. She's covering the story of the largest elephants on the face of the earth for a travel magazine.

Danger lurks in every step as she, along with her friends Lord Avery and Beverly Dunlap, and a pre-teen Kikuyu boy Jelani and her trusted guide, comes across the mutilated bodies of a dead and dying group of elephants, whose ivory tusks have been hacked off. The animals being so abused are bad enough, but there is also the dead body of one of the King's own African Rifle soldier who looks as if he had been executed by the poachers. Though bullets fly past her and arrows are shot at her, Jade refuses to be afraid and vows to find the poachers and get them to justice for their crimes.

At the same time Harry Hascombe shows up in her camp. At one time Harry had been of romantic interest to Jade, but she found out that he couldn't be trusted, so she now despises him. Harry is leading a group of tourists around the area in order to see the sights, but Jade has her own questions about the Germans in his group.

While searching for good photo opportunities, she runs across more butchered elephants, and has even found a cache of weapons. Those guns are not used to kill elephants, but are of a quality to use against people in an armed conflict. Are Harry's tourists really gunrunners?

Because she had been the lead in an adventure book written by her friend, Jade now finds herself the object of adoration by dashing, wounded American pilot Sam Featherstone. He shows up in Africa with dreams of making a movie of the area and being able to afford his own plane, since he can no longer be a flyer because of his war wound.

There is a lot to this book that I appreciate. I like that the location of the African area is so lovingly described. You get a real sense that you are in the middle of the jungle. The appearance of the wildlife makes the readers want to go there and see Africa in person. Because the story is set in the 1920s, way before the horrors of the full 20th century hit the area, there is a great feeling of the past, and the way adventure books used to be written.

And that sense of the old-fashioned way of looking at things takes away from the book in my opinion. The heroine is very much an old-fashioned 'strong' woman. She makes a point of stamping her foot and going against advice in order to prove that she isn't a weak female. I found that to be a bit too old a way for woman to act. That she is strong and a perfect shot and brave beyond compare also makes the character more like a cartoon than a real woman in a modern story.

Another factor that takes away from the enjoyment of this book is that, though a lot of violence is aimed at Jade, none of it seems to register with her. Because she disregards the gunshots and the arrows that are fired at her, and she dismisses the sudden appearance of huge dangerous, wild animals running at her, there is little tension and so there's no shared sense of peril to bond us to the character.

If only the heroine weren't quite so perfect and headstrong, then STALKING IVORY might be an enjoyable story. As it is, along with the constant mention of her green eyes, I found this to be too much of a cartoon to grab my emotions.

Reviewed by Sharon Katz, March 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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