First Line: "I'll be fine."
Jade del Cameron is working for an American outfit that's capturing wild animals to take them to zoos in the United States. Shortly after acting as leopard bait, Jade finds the body of a local merchant on a coffee plantation owned by two of her friends. The chief suspect is the man in love with Jade-- Sam Featherstone, an American pilot and filmmaker. Dissatisfied with the way the investigation is going, Jade begins to look into things and discovers that the dead man had his fingers in the sort of pies that would make other people very angry. All Jade has to do is narrow down the list of real suspects. Of course she can never seem to do this without stirring up a bit of trouble: "Can we not leave you alone for a minute, Jade, without your getting kidnapped or involved in something unseemly?" asked Beverly.
In a review of an earlier book in this series, I called Arruda's books my "Saturday matinee reading". The primary reason for this being one of my favorite series has always been escapism. Jade grew up on a ranch in New Mexico. She knows how to ride and how to shoot and how to pitch a tent. She's a former World War I nurse who learned how to take care of her ambulance while shells were bursting all around and wounded men were screaming for help. Now she's in Kenya as a photojournalist, and she's learning to fly. She goes out into the country for a ride on her motorcycle in order to give her cheetah, Biscuit, some quality exercise. Although I have to admit that the idea of going for a run out in the country with my cheetah definitely has its allure, this series is growing into something more.
The "more" is how Arruda shows Kenya and the rest of Africa changing. Populations are exploding in the cities, and as the cities grow out, the wildlife is being chased further and further away. Arruda also begins showing readers the native Kikuyus' unrest as they are required to carry identity papers and travel documents at all times as well as pay the dreaded hut tax. The longer Jade stays in Africa, the more she learns about the people and the land, and we learn right along with her. This time, we learn about the Maasai when Jade crash lands in a plane. Arruda includes several tidbits of Maasai wisdom and folklore in the book, such as the following:
"So you hunt for animals for the white men to take, you hunt for a killer, and you hunt for his wife," Tajewo shook his head. "It is not good to do too much at once. We have a saying. A man cannot walk on two different paths at the same time. It will crack his buttocks."
I like the path these books are taking, away from strictly escapist fare and into a truer depiction of the area and the time. Murder, wildlife, colonial Africa, native customs, and a budding romance-- all this and more is to be found in The Leopard's Prey. The next book in the series, Treasure of the Golden Cheetah, is available starting today. It won't be long until I have my hands on a copy!