A fast-moving thriller starring a female mercenary in a great setting, along with violence and a dollop of sex.
Sonja Kurtz attacks a convoy said to be carrying the president of Zimbabwe. It’s nothing personal. She kills for a living, and it’s a prelude to the main story: a plot to destroy a dam blocking water from the Okavango Delta in Botswana. The surname Kurtz looks like Park’s homage to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, although any similarity between the two characters ends there. Sonja doesn’t sit around moaning “The horror! The horror!” but is a steel-tough, compelling protagonist from beginning to her possible end. In one scene, “[s]he held the dead man’s cigarette between her blood-stained fingers and closed her eyes as she inhaled deeply.” Earlier, she met up with a wildlife documentary crew and a potential love interest in TV personality Coyote Sam, who is more plausible than his name suggests. Add an ex-lover, an estranged father, a daughter of dubious paternity, some AK-47s and RPGs, and a dam that will either improve people’s lives or ruin the environment, and you have the elements of an engrossing story. During a lull in the action, Sonja ponders why she didn’t become “a doctor or a vet or a nurse or even a bloody secretary.” Instead, “[h]er drive, her ambition, her past and her pride had taken her to war and taught her to kill.” And she might well ponder why villains never learn to stop explaining themselves at length before pulling the damn trigger. In Africa, she sees a place of great sorrow where people have given up crying. Yet it’s also a place of great beauty, as evidenced by the author’s rich and authentic detail. Clearly, Park knows and loves Africa.
Don’t expect damsels in distress in this novel. Do expect a thrill ride that won’t disappoint.