Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ivory Ghosts by Caitlin O'Connell (3.5 stars)

About Ivory Ghosts: A Catherine Sohon Elephant Mystery

In a blockbuster debut thriller brimming with majestic wildlife, village politics, and international intrigue, a chilling quadruple homicide raises the stakes in the battle to save Africa’s elephants.

Still grieving over the tragic death of her fiancé, American wildlife biologist Catherine Sohon leaves South Africa and drives to a remote outpost in northeast Namibia, where she plans to face off against the shadowy forces of corruption and relentless human greed in the fight against elephant poaching. Undercover as a census pilot tracking the local elephant population, she’ll really be collecting evidence on the ruthless ivory traffickers.

But before she even reaches her destination, Catherine stumbles onto a scene of horrifying carnage: three people shot dead in their car, and a fourth nearby—with his brain removed. The slaughter appears to be the handiwork of a Zambian smuggler known as “the witchdoctor,” a figure reviled by activists and poachers alike. Forced to play nice with local officials, Catherine finds herself drawn to the prickly but charismatic Jon Baggs, head of the Ministry of Conservation, whose blustery exterior belies his deep investment in the poaching wars.

Torn between her developing feelings and her unofficial investigation, she takes to the air, only to be grounded by a vicious turf war between competing factions of a black-market operation that reaches far beyond the borders of Africa. With the mortality rate—both human and animal—skyrocketing, Catherine races to intercept a valuable shipment. Now she’s flying blind, and a cunning killer is on the move.

“The scientist that Caitlin O’Connell is shines through her first work of fiction, a thriller set against the illegal ivory poaching trade in Africa. With descriptions and dialect so real you feel as if you might be turning pages while sitting deep in the bush, and a skillful narrative that teaches while it thrills, this novel is a win for any animal lover or reader with a conservationist’s heart.”—Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Leaving Time

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Catherine Sohon went to Africa with her love to follow her dreams. After a tragic incident, her fiance was gone. Needing to a focus, she decides to go undercover in another part of Africa to face off against some elephant killings and other shady dealings.

There, she finds herself knee-deep in issues and drawn to a man, Jon, who might or might not be there to help her.

Right away, I was intrigued by Catherine. She was determined to carry on despite tragic loss. Instead of taking her dad up on his offer to help, she decides to jump in and carry forth with her passion for animals. Very little deters, or even frightens, her. 

Plus, this novel showcases the beauty of Africa as well as its demons. With amazing details and well-illustrated locals, the reader feels transported. Added to that, there's lots of information about the cruelty of those who would kill to make money, regardless of who or what is endangered.

My only disappointment was the consistency of action. I was sucked in at the beginning, then there was a mid-way slump, and finally I was back on board at the end. 

Still, there's so much to enjoy, I would definitely recommend it, especially if you like environmental and foreign issues as presented by a passionate, determined, and strong lead character. A woman, no less. (Which was made even more interesting by reading the Author's Note and discovering the author's background and own passion.)

Rating: 3.5 stars

About Caitlin O’Connell 

A world-renowned expert on elephants, Caitlin O’Connell holds a Ph.D. in ecology and is a faculty member at the Stanford University School of Medicine as well as director of life sciences for HNu Photonics. She is the author five nonfiction books about elephants, including the internationally acclaimed The Elephant’s Secret Sense, An Elephant’s Life, A Baby Elephant in the Wild, and Elephant Don, and co-author of the award-winning The Elephant Scientist. She is the co-founder and CEO of Utopia Scientific, a nonprofit organization dedicated to research and science education, and the co-founder of Triple Helix Productions, a global media forum with a mandate to develop more accurate and entertaining science content for the media. When not in the field with elephants, O’Connell divides her time between San Diego, California, and Maui, Hawaii, with her husband, Tim Rodwell, and their dog, Frodo.
Thanks to TLC for my review copy.

Note: I received a complimentary copy for review purposes. A positive review was not requested or guaranteed; the opinions expressed are my own. 

Please visit other stops on the Ivory Ghosts blog tour page.


Anonymous said...

This book and THE TUSK THAT DID THE DAMAGE are at the top of my TBR list right now - I don't know what it is about these elephant stories but I'm completely drawn to them.

Thanks for being a part of the tour!