In her adventure novel, Noble animates the setting of early-1960s Africa.
Robert O’Hara and his daughter, Sanya, live in Rhodesia, where Robert makes a living escorting tourists on safari. He’s also a conservationist; Noble brings Robert to life, capably rendering his many action scenes. Certain moments—when Sanya is out exploring the landscape or when Robert and friends take revenge on a lawyer and a doctor who have harmed Sanya—flow perfectly and are easily imagined. It’s a tale of violence and beauty, and the O’Haras cross paths with poachers, sleazy lawyers and even some friends within their own camp who betray them. When Robert tries to create a nature reserve, two corrupt government officials harass his camp and resort to murder to force him out. Characters meet with grisly ends, and Noble isn’t afraid of killing off major players for surprise plot twists. The tale is an epic one and spreads over more than a decade, which is part of the problem. While some of the subplots span the length of the book, others wrap up a bit too efficiently. The violence can also seem arbitrary. For example, several characters assault Sanya in the first half of the book, starting when she is 15 years old. By the fourth instance, perpetrated by the third character, the story becomes lurid and voyeuristic. It becomes a way to mark a character as a villain and makes the antagonists more one-dimensional, giving them such similar crimes and motivation. Still, there is a lot to recommend in Noble’s writing—she draws readers in and ably limns terrain and wildlife.
An occasionally overwrought narrative with skillful prose.