Read of the Week

An Empty Coast

Tony Park

Macmillan

Review: Brian Joss

Buried in the sands of Namibia on the edge of the Etosha Pan is a Dakota that supposedly got lost while on a mission during the War of Liberation in the 1980s and Emma Kurtz, an archaeological student on a dig, unearths the remains

of an airman identified as Hudson Brand.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world in Vietnam, “retired” mercenary Sonja Kurtz, who is still getting over the murder of her husband, Sam Chapman, a renowned wildlife film-maker, is tying up a few loose ends: getting rid of Tran Van Ngo, a key figure in the smuggling of rhino horn. And she does so by swapping places with his Russian escort, Irina Alexsandrova.

Then Sonja gets a call from Emma asking for help. But when she illegally enters Namibia, where she was born but not very welcome, Emma is missing, as are the crew on the dig.

It won’t be a spoiler to say that Hudson Brand, a former CIA agent, is alive and well and back in Namibia to solve the decades old mystery and find the buried treasure as well as what happened to the pilot, Gareth, whose father, Matthew Allchurch, hires Brand to help him find closure.

None of the characters are what they seem. They all have their own agenda including the mild-mannered but acerbic Professor Dorset Sutton; Alexsandrova and Andre Horsman, who was also obsessed with finding the Dak and its treasure. Several of the characters have appeared in some of Park’s other books.

Sonja Kurtz featured in The Delta along with Stirling Smith, her childhood sweetheart, and Sam Chapman, while Brand was in The Hunter.

Park gives them flesh and blood by filling in their back stories.

An Empty Coast takes a while to gather momentum but once it does it moves at the speed of a bullet train.

There is a lot of back-stabbing and be- trayal; violence and some romance, but not the touchy feely kind.

An Empty Coast is a gripping tale of greed , corruption, murder and something which is always in the headlines – rhino horn poaching and smuggling.

Although Park is Australian, An Empty Coast is as South African as biltong.