Full disclosure, I was provided an advanced copy of this book by the author however I have voluntarily chosen to write a review. All opinions are my own.
When Conservation and Progress Clash
In the rush to develop the world’s first viable 100% battery-powered engine; negotiator Sam Jardine comes into contact with a rare element that could be a game-changer. But when his efforts to secure the rights are undermined and undercut by the competition he invests his own personal finances to purchase a large conservation area in Namibia which is rumored to be the source of the element. As he sets off to his new property, he quickly learns that things are not easy in this region that is every bit as savage as it is beautiful. After a run-in with bandits on his own property, he is rescued by the current tenants, but it is made known that his presence is not welcomed. Freja Sondheim is fiery and beautiful, and she hates Sam Jardine with a passion. Having lived on this land for her entire life and devoting her time to the conservation of the local wildlife, she is furious with the prospect of a mining operation being set up in her beloved elephant sanctuary. As Sam gets to know Freja, her brother Magnus and her supercentenarian great grandmother Helene he begins to understand Freja’s devotion and concerns. The more time he spends with Helene, the more the elder opens up to him regarding her storied past including a forbidden love with a long dead tribal king, the mistreatment of the locals by Western interlopers, and a cover up that has left Helene as a scapegoat for all these years. When Sam, armed with this knowledge begins to develop a bond with the elephants in the region his focus turns to finding a way for the wildlife to thrive at the same time as a potential mining operation. But with the added obstacles of local poachers, illegal hunters, a long thought dead supremacist group, his Chinese rivals, and an ever-impatient financial backer Sam’s latest venture appears to be heading for disaster. A loss for Sam would also lead to a bigger defeat, not only for the local wildlife but the honor of the entire Sondheim lineage and Sam is not willing to let that happen without a fight.
Sam Jardine is back in the fourth installment of Christopher Hepworth’s crime thriller series and for me, this is absolutely the best one so far. Set in Africa with a focus on the savannas of Zambia and Namibia, Hepworth draws on not only the history of the region but also his own personal experiences as he seamlessly intertwines the two to craft a landscape so vivid the reader can easily imagine themselves in the story. Tusker, on the surface, focuses on bringing back a species of elephant long thought forgotten but Hepworth doesn’t stop there. While reading Tusker, I found myself taking pauses to look up names, places, and events, and much to my surprise many of the events touched on by Hepworth were real as confirmed in the Historical Note at the end of the book. That’s not to say that every person or incident is real, but the addition of the historical aspect sparks a curiosity that will have the reader learning of a series of events that while completely true, may not appear in any history book. I love books that not only provide entertainment but also enlightenment if the reader is curious enough to do a small amount of research.
Aside from the obvious current concerns such as conservation, the need for the world to develop more sustainable fuel options, and the competitiveness of the nations of the world to be “the first” in all things Tusker also raises awareness for some less obvious concerns in the region – namely illegal hunting and poaching operations that threaten to wipe out the elephant population. Hepworth manages to balance all of these themes in a book that is not only easy to read but compelling enough that if the reader will allow it, will be on their mind and in their hearts for a long period to come.
If you like immersive stories that touch on current world issues in a way that will bring it all home and make you think, Tusker is an excellent read for you. After this latest offering, I am eager to see what Jardine’s next adventure will be.