Source: Review copy*
Publication: 15 July 2018 from Orenda Books
When freelance journalist, Crystal Nguyen, heads to South Africa, she thinks she’ll be researching an article on rhino-horn smuggling for National Geographic, while searching for her missing colleague. But, within a week, she’s been hunting poachers, hunted by their bosses, and then arrested in connection with a murder. And everyone is after a briefcase full of money that may hold the key to everything. Fleeing South Africa, she goes undercover in Vietnam, trying to discover the truth before she’s exposed by the local mafia. Discovering the plot behind the money is only half the battle. Now she must convince the South African authorities to take action before it’s too late. She has a shocking story to tell, if she survives long enough to tell it… Fast-paced, relevant and chilling, Dead of Night is a stunning new thriller that exposes one of the most vicious conflicts on the African continent.
Dead of Night is a thrilling, chilling book with a brilliant female American/Vietnamese protagonist who is prepared to take on the most ruthless criminals in pursuit of her aims. This book is by no means a polemic, but it does deal with an incredibly serious issue; one which puts the lives of people involved in rhino conservation in danger.
So, before I discuss the book, I thought it would be helpful to have a little background information on rhino poaching in Africa. In just a decade, more than 7,245 African rhinos have been lost to poaching. On average, 3 rhinos are lost to poaching every day; that’s more than 1,000 a year.
Just a couple of weeks ago an alleged rhino poaching ‘kingpin’ was released from jail in Botswana. Save The Rhino expressed their deep frustration at the state of affairs regarding prosecution of such high level poachers.
They said: “It is hard enough to get people like this into custody. The situation we have now is absurd: either the impact of corruption goes further up the chain than we feared, or the political will to tackle wildlife crime is simply lacking. If we are to stop poaching, we need to be able to prosecute king-pins further up the chain of command than the Level 1 ‘shooters, and convict those found guilty. Punishment needs to include deterrent custodial sentences and forfeiture of assets / liability for the value of the gazetted species.”
“With a string of previous offences for which he has never been held accountable, it is clear that this poacher has high-level connections giving him a Get Out Of Jail Free card. Each time he has come close to being brought to trial, it has been announced that enforcement procedures have been incorrectly completed.”
This is the factual background to Dead of Night, a vivid and intense journey that takes the reader into the heart of the Kruger National Park and onward to Vietnam where the bulk of buyers for rhino horn are to be found.
Crystal Nguyen is an American/Vietnamese freelance journalist, based in Minnesota, mainly writing for the Duluth News Tribune in the field of the environment. Estranged from her parents she treads a lonely path and enjoys competing in the biathlon, a winter sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.
Recently she has got to know Michael Davidson, a writer for the New York Times, through their shared interest in endangered species. There’s a spark between them as well as their mutual interests, and Crys is enjoying hearing from Michael as he travels between Vietnam and South Africa writing a story for National Geographic on rhino horn smuggling.
Then the e-mails dried up and she has heard nothing more from him. Worried that he is answering neither calls nor e-mails, she contacts National Geographic who are also concerned that he has not been in touch for over a month.
Crys persuades them to let her finish the article that Michael was writing and this gives her the wherewithal to follow in his footsteps as she tries to find out what has happened to him.
Told in the third person, this book follows Crys’ journey to Pretoria, Kruger National Park, to Geneva and into Vietnam and back to South Africa. Her journey will lead her into deadly danger more than once and too often she will have no idea who, if anyone she can trust.
What she discovers is a level of complicity and corruption that is endemic and that pervades Government, NGO’s and even the Police Force. When hunting poachers she will come face to face with a ‘kill or be killed’ philosophy. She will be tracked everywhere she goes, hunted down by gangs, and then she will be arrested in connection with a murder.
If she is a little naïve at the beginning of her quest to find Michael, by the time she has spent a week in South Africa she will trust no-one.
This is a fast paced read that really draws you in to the heat and dust as well as the spectacular wildlife and scenery of the South African national parks and the streets of Ho Chi Minh City.
Crys Nguyen is a whirlwind of resourcefulness and courage who is relentless in her pursuit of the truth and full of dogged determination. What she discovers will shake her to her core, the only question is whether or not she can stay alive long enough to write her story.
Verdict: A gripping and devastating novel about an important subject, with a feisty protagonist and more action, twists and thrills than you can handle. It made such an impression n me that I have donated to Save The Rhino in thanks.
About Michael Stanley
Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award. Dead of Night is their first stand-alone thriller.
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