Opportunity and opprobrium surround a new miracle fruit in the first volume of Butziger’s planned series.
Co-workers Sam, Rory and Martin travel to Uganda to film field content for programming on the highly rated Culinary Network Channel. In a sudden mishap on an adventure tour, Martin plummets down a steep ravine and goes missing for days while the others scramble amid a rainstorm to assemble a rescue crew. Though dazed and injured, Martin manages to stumble upon a grove of exotic fruit trees and, once saved, returns with samples, much to the delight of Andrew, a food technician at the channel who becomes obsessed with growing them locally on Long Island. “Nyoka” fruit, resplendent in its unique hourglass shape, greenish-red color and “umami flavors,” becomes a Manhattan culinary sensation after Andrew touts it to restaurant owner Louis and foresees some serious money in his future. Greed, exclusivity and rampant, aggressive commercialization are all themes brilliantly explored in Butziger’s brisk narrative, as Nyoka’s newfound rejuvenating properties become exploited by all who can get their hands on the miracle fruit. It also threatens Martin and Andrew’s friendship after a suspicious fire destroys Andrew’s greenhouse, where Nyoka is being stockpiled, and he’s forced to return to Africa to retrieve a new supply. Once there, Andrew is met with fierce resistance from the natives trying to preserve their land from outside influences. A local villager reveals the fruit’s true spiritual origins to Andrew as well as its disastrous legacy of inducing a false sense of invincibility. Meanwhile, an increasingly deranged Martin plans to double-cross Andrew by growing Nyoka for himself, but his plan backfires just as a marksman sniper and his band of Ugandan rebel insurgents launch an attack on an American mining operation on their soil. Though the allegorical folklore behind the Ugandan village lore plods along at length and stalls the novel’s momentum, the fiery final confrontation is a captivating end to the first volume of this mystical-thriller series.
An immensely promising start to a new thriller series.