All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Cull by Tony Park

on October 6, 2017

The Cull (Sonja Kurtz #3)
Tony Park
Pan Macmillan AUS
2017, 411p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

One mission … countless enemies.

Former mercenary Sonja Kurtz is hired by business tycoon Julianne Clyde-Smith to head an elite squad. Their aim: to take down Africa’s top poaching kingpins and stop at nothing to save its endangered wildlife.

But as the body count rises, it becomes harder for Sonja to stay under the radar and she is targeted by an underworld syndicate known as The Scorpions.

When her love interest, safari guide and private investigator Hudson Brand, is employed to look into the death of an alleged poacher at the hands of Sonja’s team, she is forced to ask herself if Julianne’s crusade has gone too far.

From South Africa’s Kruger National Park to the Serengeti of Tanzania, Sonja realises she is fighting a war on numerous fronts, against enemies known and unknown.

So who can Sonja really trust?

This is Tony Park’s 14th novel and the third one I’ve read. Sonja Kurtz has been a featured character in two of Park’s other novels (one of which I’ve read, The Delta and also An Empty Coast). Although I have read the first book she appears in and have a good idea of her background to be honest it’s not entirely necessary to have read the others before this one because this book does a great job explaining Sonja’s story in a clear way but without taking up too much time from this story.

Sonja is back in Africa working to train local women as an Anti-Poaching unit when they are ambushed by a group of poachers who are surprisingly well armed. As a result, Sonja is offered a job by an incredibly wealthy businesswoman named Julianne Clyde-Smith, who wants to take down the poaching kingpins ravaging the African wildlife one at a time. Employed to do “reconnaissance” it isn’t long before Sonja realises that there’s definitely a lot more to this job than meets the eye and that she might be being used. The body count is rising, the trails are getting infinitely more complicated, Sonja might be on opposing sides with her lover Hudson Brand and she’s not entirely sure who it is she should be trusting.

I love books set in Africa – mostly around South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe etc but I think that’s mostly because the majority of fiction set in Africa that I’ve read has taken place around that part of the continent and this one is no exception. Centered around the areas of large animal conservation reserves, Sonja crosses countries in her mission, occasionally having to dodge authorities due to incidents in her mercenary past. I really loathe big game hunting – people posing with guns and carcasses of elephants or giraffes or lions, beautiful creatures that should be left alone. And I have even more disdain for poaching and witch doctor rubbish that puts tens of thousands of dollars black market value on rhino horns and elephant tusks with little regard to the animal’s pain or suffering or the vast numbers in which they have been and are being slaughtered. So to be honest, I’m all for Sonja and her team and their epic array of weapons executing lethal force, but there are some cases where poverty makes poaching schemes seem easy money to locals. Julianne’s idea is to go after those at the top, dismantling entire operations from the head down. Tony Park lives part of the year in Africa and seems well versed in the various laws and intricacies of operations that might span different countries. There can be different rules for engagement when protecting property and presumably the wildlife within it – in some cases Sonja has to wait until she’s fired upon by poachers and then can she defend herself. She also has to deal with corruption in law enforcement positions, rangers and police paid off to turn a blind eye. A little bit of looking around led me to this article on the dangerous reality of being an anti-poaching ranger.

I really love Sonja as a character – she’s incredibly kick ass with all of these amazing skills and there’s pretty much nothing in terms of combat that she cannot do. But at the same time she’s also a bit awkward with people and leads a rather solitary life. She’s kind of in a relationship with Hudson Brand but she also doesn’t really quite trust him yet and can’t talk to him about what they’re doing or to clarify either of their feelings. She’s the sort of person who will walk away without asking a question, rather than put herself out there for a moment and present herself as vulnerable to another person. There’s a few misunderstandings that create some friction for Sonja and Hudson. I haven’t read the book where they met but after this I definitely plan to go back and add it to my TBR pile because I find them really interesting together. Hudson is a former CIA agent so he has mad skills of his own and now he works as a safari guide and sometime private investigator. I don’t know if there are plans to include them in future books but I’m sure there’s still plenty of ways in which they could reappear.

I found this to be a really engrossing read from the first page – I loved the setting and felt like I was learning more about the poaching situation and the lengths that are needed in order to try and present a defense to it. There were some really good secondary characters (especially Tema, she was fantastic. Park certainly writes very strong, independent female characters) and the story had a few twists and turns, some of which I guessed and some that were a surprise.

8/10

Book #162 of 2017

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