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by Suzanne Arruda
NAL , January 2009
384 pages
ISBN: 0451225864

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It's Nairobi in the early 1920's and already Jade del Cameron is bemoaning the loss of the wilderness, the increase in traffic, the treatment of the native people. She misses her friends, Lord Avery and Beverly Dunbury, who are in England awaiting the birth of their first child. Jade has the run of their house, which makes her life easier but reinforces their distance. At the same time, her friends Maddy and Neville Thompson are there for her. Her good friend Sam Featherstone is doing what we would today call an independent film about the Thompsons and their coffee ranch. Sam is a pilot, a photographer, and would like to be more to Jade than just a friend, no matter how good.

One day, while filming, Maddy discovers the body of a local businessman in their new coffee dryer. At first glance, it would seem to be a suicide. Of course, that makes for no book, so it turns out to be murder. Why was Martin Stokes murdered? And why did he wind up in Neville's coffee dryer? And the most obvious question of all: who killed him?

The local police, in the person of Inspector Finch, decide that Sam is the guy. The public quarrel he had with Stokes is enough for the inspector. It doesn't matter that Stokes had been cheating his employer. It doesn't have any bearing that Stokes has been blackmailing people, or that he's probably been abusing his wife (who has disappeared, along with their infant son). Although he doesn't actually arrest Sam. Jade is determined to clear Sam.

Arruda has written another winner. Jade continues to grow, as do the continuing characters in this series. The setting is wonderful. The plot plays fair with the reader, which is always a treat. Jade's relationship with Sam presents problems for both of them, problems that are not solved by the end of THE LEOPARD'S PREY. Jade is a very independent woman, a woman out of step with the times in which she lives. Arruda's handling of the conflicts this causes is believable, and a reminder of how far we've come in the last century. While it certainly is not mandatory that one start with MARK OF THE LION, the first in the series, readers who enjoy watching characters grow and flourish will probably want to start at the beginning.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, November 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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