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Monday, 1 October 2018

‘Dead Of Night’ by Michael Stanley

Published by Orenda Books,
31 August 2018.
ISBN: 978-1912374-26-0 (PB)

With this absorbing thriller the writing duo Michael Stanley digs deep into the corrupt, dangerous and seedy world of illegal rhino-horn smuggling and trafficking.  Most of the action unfolds in South Africa punctuated by a brief foray to Vietnam and Switzerland. 

 Crystal  (Crys) Nguyen, a freelance journalist of Vietnamese descent from Minnesota arrives in the bush on an intrepid fact-gathering assignment commissioned by National Geographic that includes an urgent quest for her friend Michael who has dropped off the radar whilst investigating rhino poaching gangs.

Crys bases herself at a family run two thousand hectares nature reserve and rhino conservation centre located west of Kruger National Park. Through her eyes, the reader experiences the stunning and magical wildlife, unique birds, colourful flora and vegetation and the brilliant African night sky.  But Crys is not there to savour the atmosphere, however beguiling, but to get a story and for that she must do some sly poking around. Her opportunity comes quicker than she imagined when the reserve’s team leader succumbs to malaria and she reluctantly finds herself pitched into hosting the guests.

Strange things begin to happen. The second in command excuses himself on a pretext and disappears, ostensibly, to attend a traditional burial; there’s a plane crash at dead of night; the second in command suddenly re-appears mumbling about an injured elephant and persuades Crys to accompany him to the crash site where they discover one person dead, but not as a result of the crash, an apparently bleeding survivor who has legged it into the bush and something else of great value.

Crys is a warrior woman, feisty and independent minded and her interaction with Colonel Mabula, the no- nonsense and shrewd Chief Superintendent at Giyani Police Station makes for some robust scenes. He is well drawn and the reader can visualize him very clearly and both he and Crys provide depth and interest to the unusual, well-plotted story.  The author puts Crys through some rough and testing times but she’s not just a pretty face but also a biathlon champion and this stands her in good stead.

This is a multi-layered, well-researched novel, thought provoking with lots of spins, although sad in some ways as conservationists battle, often unsuccessfully, against greedy, cruel people to prevent the extinction of an endangered species. It’s an enthralling immersive read that won’t disappoint.  
Reviewer: Serena Fairfax

Michael Stanley is the writing name of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both natives of Africa, they have travelled regularly together to Botswana and Zimbabwe over the past twenty years to experience the country with its wide diversity and interesting peoples. Their books reflect the authentic Africa of the 21st century: not merely the politically unstable, desperately poor Africa of the nightly news, but also the emotional conflicts of people with one foot in traditional culture and the other in Western-instigated globalism. The new Africa is not the safari jungle, but a collection of diverse groups and nations struggling to find their way in a rapidly changing context. It was at the lion research center in the Savuti, an ancient dried-up lake in Botswana's Chobe National Park, that they realized how to conceal a perfect murder. They watched a hyenas team up to drive lions off their fresh kills, then devour everything in sight, bones and all. By the next morning, no evidence remained of the carcass. Botswana offered the ideal setting for such a literary revelation. This was the kernel of the idea that led to our first book, A Carrion Death

Serena Fairfax spent her childhood in India, qualified as a lawyer in England and practised in London for many years. She began writing by contributing feature articles to legal periodicals   then turned her hand to fiction. Having published nine novels all, bar one, hardwired with a romantic theme, she has also written short stories and accounts of her explorations off the beaten track that feature on her blog. A tenth, distinctly unromantic, novel is a work in progress. Thrillers, crime and mystery narratives, collecting old masks and singing are a few of her favourite things.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for your kind words. So pleased yo enjoyed the story.