Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Leopard's Prey-Suzanne Arruda

Leopard's Prey
Suzanne Arruda
Obsidian, Jan 6 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780451225863

In 1920 on the Thompson coffee plantation near Nairobi, the corpse of Martin Stokes, owner of Stokes and Berryhill Store, is found inside a coffee dryer. Since his wife Alice has gone missing as evidenced by Martin putting out an ad asking for help to find her, the local cops assume two murders occurred. Other evidence points towards WWI flying ace, Sam Featherstone.

Having returned from Morocco (see THE SERPENT'S DAUGHTER) photographer and animal rights activist Jade del Cameron refuses to accept Sam the filmmaker as a suspect; he is her lover and aviator instructor teaching her to fly. He also wants to be her spouse, but Jade hesitates. As she investigates the murder of Martin and the disappearance of Alice, Jade and her sidekick Biscuit the cheetah rescue endangered animals.

Paying a strong homage to Africa, Suzanne Arruda provides a wonderful historical whodunit that focuses a powerful light on the changing "Dark Continent"; especially Kenya by bringing to life the geography , the assault on animals, and a deep look at the customs of the Kikuyu and Masai tribes. The story line vividly depicts the era that can be summed up by the rationale of Jade and the Perkins and Daley Zoological Company to save (not capture) animals for zoo relocation in order to keep them safe from hunters. Jade is at her best trying to prove her lover is innocent while eluding his efforts to marry her; all that in between her rescuing endangered species like white leopards.

Harriet Klausner