Publication Date: 2009
Challenges: Support Your Local Library Challenge #28
Wow this is good. I always get a little nervous when I start reading a book for which I’ve already seen many glowing
reviews. There’s the fear of being let down and ending up feeling that it was overhyped. That is most definitely not the case for this book.
Danny Kellerman is a journalist who spent some time in Sierra Leone near the end of the brutal civil war. While he was there he met and fell in love with an American aid worker who worked at an orphanage for former child soldiers. When Danny returned to England, Maria explained to him that she had to stay to continue her work. They don’t stay in touch and Danny moves on with his career and relationships. Four years later, Danny receives a letter from Maria telling him she is in trouble and needs his help. Danny then finds out that in the three works since she wrote the letter, Maria has been killed in a roadside robbery.
Because of the letter, Danny doesn’t believe the official story of Maria’s murder. He talks his boss into sending him back to Sierra Leone to do a follow up story on the changes there since the end of the war. In reality he wants to find out what really happened to Maria. When they were together four years earlier, Danny knew Maria had been keeping things from him. When he gets to Sierra Leone and starts asking questions, he finds out that there are even more secrets than he could possibly suspect.
The book alternates the current story of Danny’s return to the corrupt political environment of postwar Sierra Leone with flashbacks telling the story of his earlier trip there during the war. It bounces back and forth but the shifts are clearly labeled at the beginnings of the chapters.
Danny has issues. He’s got issues with his father, issues with his girlfriend, issues with authority. He’s mixed up already, and the return to Africa has him on the edge of holding it together.
The tension builds and the mystery is played out both in the present and the past. I kept changing my mind as to how the story would play out and in the end it was a suspenseful, although brutal story. The violence is there and a key part of the story. The stories child soldiers are terrifying and heartbreaking. I didn’t want to put the book down and was very glad to have read it on a weekend when I could let other things wait while I kept reading.
Paul Harris is a journalist who spent some time covering the war in Sierra Leone, so he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about the people and places in Africa and the journalists who cover their stories.
I definitely recommend this book.