A hunter and safari guide struggles financially to retain his homestead, but a valuable stone mask may lead to a loss much greater than his land in King’s debut thriller.
Big game hunter Cameron Jamieson’s Vancouver property is in danger of foreclosure, but he believes he’s only one trophy away from saving it. Everyone, however, is interested in his land since a reputedly priceless stone mask is hidden on it, and only Koots George, a shaman’s nephew, knows where. The secret society of Sisiutl thinks the mask brings bad luck, while church watchman Cultus Jack may only want it for its monetary worth. But the enigmatic Dr. Falco, who joins a hunting safari led by Cameron, isn’t on the lookout merely for the mask; he’s hunting for the marijuana that he’s convinced Cameron is growing. As the safari moves on, Cameron is increasingly wary of both Falco and German Sarai von Hessen, who’s beautiful but most likely a Nazi. This thriller has shades of action-adventure, especially in its scenes of big game hunting. Detailed descriptions of hunters shooting and butchering various animals, from bull moose to bears, will horrify animal lovers. But the sequences aptly separate the protagonist from the baddies: Cameron’s businesslike manner is respectful, believing animals should “die with dignity,” whereas Cultus Jack is undauntedly cruel. King likewise ensures that the animals aren’t always prey—a bull moose exacts his revenge. Though Cameron’s threatened by thugs who want to take his land, the latter half of the novel, featuring the safari with the suspicious Falco, is more rousing and intense. The story culminates with a kidnapping and exciting rescue. Cameron’s romance with pilot Jacqueline Munro is somewhat contrived—the two fall in love almost instantly—but it does add dramatic flair to the pages, especially when she vows never to speak to him again. The too-long coda, taking place months after what’s adequately deemed a “bloody battle,” does serve to tidily wrap everything up.
May cater a little more to hunters, but a thoroughly remarkable story.