Catherine Sohon with the Wildlife Investigation Agency
picks up a third flat tyre driving on a bush road through
Namibia, so on foot, with a revolver just in case, she
continues towards a ranger station. Then she comes across
crashed car with dead people inside - they've been shot.
The trunk of the car holds a clue, a chip of ivory.
Poachers and smugglers abound in this brutal trade. The
IVORY GHOSTS mean Catherine is now also at risk.
The atmosphere is immediate and total as we hear various
creatures in the bush and see the setting sun making dark
silhouettes of an elephant herd. Car seats are too hot to
sit on, while women carry firewood bundles on their heads
and boys drive oxen sleds. I thought Catherine seems
capable but not foolhardy. Her new boss tells her that
Africa is a land of broken dreams, and his staff can't be
bothered filling out the complex paperwork to process the
DNA from different tusks. International borders only
on maps, and from the air Catherine sees elephants
wandering across to escape forest fires.
I liked that despite, or because of the remote location,
Catherine uses up to date gadgets like a satellite phone,
low-light binoculars and night-vision digital camera.
However, gossip is still her best way of gathering
information, especially since the village women won't talk
to men. Witchdoctors, self-interested headmen and Chinese
traders provide plenty of suspects - and that's before we
wonder what the foreign aid workers might be adding as
IVORY GHOSTS is not a book for the tender, with animal
and human murders, but it provides an excellent amount of
insight into trade of endangered species. Author Caitlin
O'Connell has been living in Namibia with her husband
1991, and has written five non-fiction books about
elephants and how local people try to co-exist with them.
IVORY GHOSTS is her first fiction work of fiction, a way
of reaching a
different audience with her message about the plight of
elephants in Africa. If you have enjoyed Nevada Barr's
books about the National Park Rangers in America, or if
are interested in taking a safari, IVORY GHOSTS will be a
read. The tension is immediate and never lets up, while
the wildlife steps into the room and breathes over your
shoulder. IVORY GHOSTS by Caitlin O'Connell is a powerful
first novel with an even stronger impact for being fiction
lightly overlaid on fact.