A Year of Orenda – Dead of Night by Michael Stanley

Today I’m taking a look back of one of my earlier reviews, that for Dead of Night by Michael Stanley, a standalone thriller that takes a long look at the money, the conflict and the power behind the poaching industry. Murder, tension, action and mystery fill this book, one that will have you both glued to your seat and angry as hell. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Amazon

About the Book

When freelance journalist, Crystal Nguyen, heads to South Africa, she thinks she’ll be researching an article on rhino-horn smuggling for National Geographic, while searching for her missing colleague. But within a week, she’s been hunting poachers, hunted by their bosses, and then arrested in connection with a murder. And everyone is after a briefcase full of money that may hold the key to everything…

Fleeing South Africa, she goes undercover in Vietnam, trying to discover the truth before she’s exposed by the local mafia. Discovering the plot behind the money is only half the battle. Now she must convince the South African authorities to take action before it’s too late. She has a shocking story to tell, if she survives long enough to tell it…

Fast-paced, relevant and chilling, Dead of Night is a stunning new thriller that exposes one of the most vicious conflicts on the African continent…

Available from: Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Googleplay | Apple Books | Orenda Bookstore | Hive

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed reading the Detective Kubu series by Michael Stanley so when I heard that there was to be a standalone thriller released this year, I was immediately intrigued and keen to read the book. What I have loved about this writing duo is the way in which they are able to recreate the African landscape and make it feel so authentic as though you are right there in the heart of the action. This time it seems the pair know no borders, taking the reader from their native South Africa to Switzerland and Vietnam in a book which is as topical and important as it is thrilling and packed with action.

The story follows journalist Crystal ‘Crys’ Nguyen who is in South Africa for two reasons. The most important is an assignment from National Geographic to create and article on Rhino poaching and its devastating effect on the Rhino population. The second, and in truth Crys’ most pressing need, is to find out what happened to her friend and fellow reporter, Michael Davidson, who had been assigned to cover the story before her but who had not been heard from for weeks. It is clear that investigating poaching will be a highly dangerous undertaking, the worth of the industry running into the millions, but nothing can prepare Crys, or the reader for what is to come to pass.

This book is hard hitting, fast paced and full of thrills and action in a way that you would not believe. The authors do not spare the harsh truth of the act of poaching, or of the price that poachers may pay if they are caught. This is a serious business and one which is threatening wildlife across the globe, not just Rhinos but elephants, lions, tigers… There seems to be little that people will not pay thousands of pounds to hunt and own these days. This is most clearly portrayed in this novel with the authors highlighting the true cost of the industry in terms of the animals -in this case Rhinos. But they also go one step further, taking it beyond a simple preaching novel about why poaching is bad, and examine the reasons why a person may turn to poaching and the harsh realities of the life of those who refuse to take part. It is as emotional for this storyline as it is for the fate of the animals themselves.

In Crys Nguyen, the authors have created a really intriguing protagonist. She is tough, an athlete, also prone to meditation and yoga, but she is also feisty and determined and there is nothing she will not do it seems. She is not superwoman, there are clear limits to her abilities and she manages to find herself in mortal danger on a number of occasions, once at her own hand, but she is resilient and unafraid and will fight to find the truth, even if it costs her own life. I really liked her, although on occasion doubted her sanity. So many times I’d have just run the other way and yet when she has the chance to get away she pushes herself further into the case and further into danger. You had to admire her tenacity.

Now Crys is not alone in her investigations. She spends time on a Nature Reserve where she meets Johannes Malan, his father Anton and their game guide, Bongani. These are all richly drawn characters and I found myself warming to Johannes and Bongani very quickly. Bongani especially was a great character, his story compelling and authentic and his friendship with Crys quite special at times. Johannes was such a passionate man, so determine to protect his Rhino but with very differing views on how this could adequately be achieved to perhaps some of those around him. The discussions that he and Anton had with Crys certainly opened up some interesting discussions on the very nature of Rhino poaching, something which is done simply for the perceived, if unproven, physical benefits of the horn. True medical miracle or just superstition, the method of removal used by poachers is just barbaric and so, so tragic.

This is a hard read at times, with scenes which will make you wince, others that will have you on the edge of your seat, heart pounding. It is also filled with moments of quiet, where there is nothing to do but contemplate the rights and (thoroughly) wrongs of the whole poaching culture. It is hard for me to get my head around why anyone would wish to harm these wonderful creatures for a mass of matted hair and yet in Africa it is sad, cruel and often violent reality which has been reflected perfectly on the page. But the story is more than a sociopolitical statement and there are elements in it which will have you puzzled and will really make you think about the facts you are being presented with. Who is behind the poaching? Of those purporting to help Crys, who is truly friend and who foe? Certainly it had me guessing and second guessing as I powered through the pages.

If you would like to read a book which is both entertaining and thought-provoking, which will transport you from the wild African bush to the seedy and corrupt streets of Vietnam, and one which will give you a strong and determined female lead, then do pick this book up. I’d highly recommend it.

About the Authors

Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award. Dead of Night is their first stand-alone thriller.

Author links: Twitter | Website | Facebook

Books by Michael Stanley

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