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ECLIPSE by Richard Cox

ECLIPSE

By Richard Cox

Pub Date: March 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-13966-7
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

 A sprawling but sporadically engrossing ecothriller from old- pro Cox (Park Plaza, 1991, etc.). Here, Somali poachers who've been wreaking systematic havoc on Kenya's protected wildlife plan a climactic coup during a rare total eclipse of the sun. Sally Facetti, a handsome young consular official at the US Embassy in Nairobi, has a full plate. Colonel Tom Keen, the legation's military attachÇ, has shown her satellite photos detailing the damage done indigenous elephant herds by the armed and dangerous gang of ivory hunters; meanwhile, a Peace Corps volunteer with an influential mom has gone missing in the bush; and Sally's been assigned to wetnurse an American astronomer in country with a demanding tour group for the eclipse. The stargazer is slated to set up camp at a hinterland farm owned by the Cawstons, a settler family with troubles of their own. With the patriarch (once a white hunter) dying, his son Rory and widowed daughter Sophie can't agree about whether to turn the vast acreage into a commercial game preserve or to keep raising cattle on it. Helpful Sally devises a mixed-use plan that could attract funding from environmental groups and support from the Kenyan government. The resourceful scheme gains her the respect of manly Rory, but Sally must still deal with a Wildlife Minister whose venal half-brother is in league with the well-equipped raiders who've been pillaging the poorly policed interior. Though tracked by Rory and Keen, the poachers reach their primary objective, a herd of rhinos temporarily penned up on Cawston property, slaughtering the animals for their horns at the height of the eclipse. A manhunt ensues, and only one marauder escapes the dragnet. Withal, Sally gets Rory (whose unhappy wife leaves him at a decidedly opportune juncture), and there's a sense that First Worldlings can save Kenya's treasures from a feckless populace. Cox keeps the pot boiling merrily until the disappointingly tame close, when he seems in a hurry to depart the exotic locales he's so vividly rendered.