THE DELTA

Written by Tony Park

Review written by Di Shelley

Di found her niche in life in 1970 when she joined the BBC as a freelance producer and broadcaster working BBC Radio Bristol and later branching out into BBC Radio 2 & 4. She is on the committee for www.mysterywomen.co.uk


THE DELTA
Quercus
RRP: £12.99
Released: 3rd March 2011
Trade Paperback

Oh, dear. Now don’t get me wrong. This is not a badly written book. In fact I found it quite enjoyable – but sadly I suspect not for the reasons the author would like. Yes, it’s full of suspense, yes, it’s set against the stunning background of the Okavango Delta in the heart of Botswana, and yes it’s full of action - but it’s so contrived.

 To be fair, it starts off promisingly enough.

 Sonja Kurtz – the ex soldier turned mercenary – is in the heart of Zimbabwe lying in wait to assassinate the President. The heat, the parched land, the sound of the wildlife, the feel of Africa is all there. As I say it’s not badly written. As tension builds we wait with her for the moment she’s going to change history. But then the operation goes wrong. The assassination fails and Sonja is now on the run, aware that the whole business has been a set-up and that she is the intended victim. So far so good.

 But now as others characters are introduced, the book for me begins to lose its credibility. It’s as if the author has settled himself down with a piece of paper and a chewed pencil and thought ‘Right. What goes into making a thriller?’ and proceeded to create a menu starting with ‘issues’.

 ‘Environmental? Yep. Ecological? Definitely. Political? Of course.  Social and cultural? Naturally. Betrayal? Obviously. Now for dramatise personae. Ex-soldier turned mercenary, that’ll do for starters – female of course.  Television – how about a ‘survival celebrity’ being left in the bush, a camera crew of course led by a bitch of a (female) producer, ex-lovers, a dying friend, a difficult teenage daughter …’

 This tale is populated not so much by characters as by caricatures.

 At the heart of the book is the controversy surrounding the building of a dam on the Okavango River and the resultant effects both above and below. The surrounding Delta below the proposed dam will gradually be starved of water and ultimately starved of life. And yes, we have the heartbreaking description of a mother elephant not getting to the water in time and the crying of her baby as it twines its trunk through hers. Oh dear.

 And guess what Sonja’s next task is?  Yep – blow up the dam. Single handedly! And – wait for it - yep – there’s the reference to The Dambusters! Does she do it? Well that’s for you to find out. And I would suggest you read this book – if only to detect all the clichés it contains – clichés of character and events. But it is an easy read – a bit of a romp – a clunky romp, but a romp nonetheless. Great for settling down with, in the garden, in the sunshine with a glass of something chilled. In fact I think that’s just what I’ll do now – and enjoy it all over again.

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