Cactus Rain Publishing
Review : John Harvey
Southern Africa’s rhino poaching scourge is no secret, but in this, Hout Bay author Peter Kuhnert’s first published work, the focus is placed on the brave men and women who toil day and night to bring the syndicates to book.
Kuhnert has drawn heavily on his own experiences working with rhinos in South Africa and Namibia to develop his characters, many of whom are based on real people. As such, the great strength of the book lies in its authenticity.
Chief protagonist Eduardo Ruiz heads up the Kruger National Park’s anti-poaching unit, and works as best he can within the law to battle the ruthless syndicate bosses and the impoverished African locals in their employ to make a dent in their operations.
Ruiz’s intense morality plays off against his enemies’ greed, a vice that trickles to all corners of the world, including Yemen, Vietnam and Hong Kong.
While the addition of a South African Interpol officer working undercover in Asia and a Time magazine reporter, representing Ruiz’s love interest, as peripheral characters ties the plot together nicely, Horn’s excellence lies in its grit. Kuhnert refuses to shy away from describing in detail the bloodiness of this war, irrespective of which side of the divide one’s allegiances lie. As a band of poachers attempts to flee Kruger, a straggler who has twisted his ankle has his throat slit by his superior. “I want to come back again (to Kruger) and can’t have him giving away our secrets,” he tells the surviving poacher.
If there is one flaw, as can be expected of a first-time author, it is that Kuhnert occasionally strays into diatribes about the socio-political circumstances in southern Africa, using his characters as the medium.
Understandably, the writer always wants to create context for the reader, but this could perhaps have been done a little more subtly.
All told, however, the novel is a fast-paced and, most importantly, poignant true-to-life caper. That R50 of every book sold will be donated to the Kruger National Park anti-poaching unit makes it a must for the Christmas stocking, or any other occasion.