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Saturday 13 December 2014
‘The Garden of Burning Sand’ by Corban Addison
Zambia, 2011. A handicapped girl has been raped, and lawyers working for CILA, an organisation combatting human rights abuse, are determined to bring the assailant to justice.
This politically-aware crime novel highlighted the theme of abuse of women, not just of the vulnerable, like Downs Syndrome child Kuyeya, but also of the privileged, where not even the daughter of a rich politician was given the belief and support she needed. The novel is narrated in the third person, following Zoe, one of the CILA team. Zoe’s mother was an activist in Africa, and Zoe shares her love for the continent, and her determination to make a difference. At the same time, she has difficulties with her father, and these are developed through the novel. Zoe’s sympathy with Kuyeya, and her resolve to let nothing stop her from getting justice make her an engaging heroine. Her growing romance with her police colleague, Joseph, is gently handled, and the dignity and strength of his character come across strongly. Other characters, like Kuyeya herself and her mother, Bella, are vividly described. Plot-wise, it’s always clear who-dunnit, and the book’s tension is in whether the African justice system will convict him – corruption is always present, and Zoe is not sure whether Banda’s defeat will help. The trial scene is tense, and ends with a neat twist. The book gives a real feel of life in Africa with settings and characters from across society: the lush Embassy complex contrasts with the slum town where Kuyeya was found, the hustling, dirty city is set against the beauty of Victoria Falls. We meet politicians, prostitutes, doctors, country farmers. Modern politics rubs shoulders with age-old witchcraft beliefs; DNA evidence is not permitted in court, and AIDs is ever-present.
A well-plotted and engaging novel which is also a cry of outrage against violence against women.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor
Corban Addison is the author of two international bestselling novels, A Walk Across the Sun and The Garden of Burning Sand, which address some of today’s most pressing human rights issues. An attorney, activist, and world traveler, he is a supporter of numerous humanitarian causes, including the abolition of modern slavery, gender-based violence, and HIV/AIDS. He lives with his wife and children in Virginia.
Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group. Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.