Read of the Week

The Cull

Tony Park

Macmillan

Review: Karen Watkins

Africa’s wildlife has been pillaged for years, whether it’s elephants for their ivory, rhino for their horns or leopards and lions for their skin and teeth. There might be nothing left for future generations and tourists looking to see the Big Five.

From the first pages of The Cull, the scene is set with a leopard hunt in the South African bush. We meet former mercenary Sonja Kurtz as she leads the Leopards Anti-Poaching Unit on what is supposed to be a training mission. However, all goes wrong when they are ambushed by a group of well-armed poachers.

The story hurtles along on a roller-coaster ride from South Africa’s Sabi Sand Game Reserve, neighbouring the Kruger National Park, through Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi, and into the Serengeti in Tanzania.

The Cull is Tony Park’s third novel to feature Sonja Kurtz. This time she has been hired by wealthy business tycoon Julianne Clyde-Smith to head an elite all-female squad tasked with taking down Africa’s top poaching kingpins and saving some of Africa’s endangered wildlife. But as the heat increases it becomes harder for Sonja to stay under the radar and even harder for her to know who to trust as she is targeted by an underworld syndicate known as The Scorpions.

Sonja is a tough cookie, but, as with any good thriller, there is a love interest in the form of hunky safari guide and private investigator, Hudson Brand. The duo have a fiery history of jealousy and misunderstandings not helped by him being employed to look into the death of an alleged poacher at the hands of Sonja’s team.

Pour these ingredients into the plot, and it is not surprising that they detour from their track.

All too soon they are forced to consider if Julianne’s crusade has gone too far and what Sonja could lose if she continues with the increasingly bloody campaign.

The action is as fast-paced as the story’s characters, so if you start reading this be warned that you might not put it down.

This is Tony Park’s 14th novel, and it is not surprising that he has personally come in contact with the war on poaching and the people fighting it in Africa. Elements of The Cull are based on reality. He and his wife, Nicola, divide their time between Sydney, Australia, and southern Africa where they own a home on the border of the Kruger National Park. Born in 1964, Tony grew up in Sydney, serving in the Australian Army Reserve and as a public affairs officer in Afghanistan in 2002.

His next book, Captive, will be published in April 2018. I can’t wait!