Hunting Ground by Val Harris

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Hunting Ground by Val Harris

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A very readable story set in Kenya's Masai Mara. The location and the characters all come brilliantly to life and I finished the story far too quickly.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 318 Date: March 2017
Publisher: Cava Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0955599712

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Nyara Camp is one of the newest camps in the Masai Mara and it's run by James and Alexia Sackville. The guests might sleep in tents, but it's still luxury accommodation in anybody's book. Chui Camp, on the other hand, sticks with the traditional way that safaris were run, including bucket showers. Owner Ralph Somerton is convinced that's what the guests should want and he won't listen to any of his wife Tessa's suggestions for updating the tired venue. It's beginning to be reflected in the profits Chui makes, but instead of upping his own game Somerton would rather see Nyara as unfair competition and it's only a small step from that reasoning to looking at ways of ensuring Nyara's failure.

Africa is full of vast, open spaces, but communities tend to be small and interconnected. Esme lives in the local slum, Kibera, with her brother, Yahzid, who's actually the older of the siblings but it's Esme who has her head screwed on the right way. She wants to go to University and to make some money she cleans for the Somertons. Yahzid, on the other hand would like to help Esme get the education she wants, but he's unemployed and has a police record. The temptation of easy money is too much for him to resist.

George and Mary Stephenson are old Kenya hands, but George has been let down by a business partner and now finds that his bank accounts are blocked and it's almost impossible to get to see someone who could do something to help him. A chance meeting with Ralph Somerton - a man he doesn't like or trust - sees him and Mary going on safari when there's a small change in their fortunes. Mary's not entirely happy though - she's got a secret she's keeping from George. Tragedy has its foot stretched out, ready to trip someone up.

I'm a long-standing fan of author Val Harris and when I heard that the long wait for another book was over I was sure that we'd be meeting the Moon family again, but Hunting Ground is a completely new departure for Harris with its setting in Kenya. The research has been impeccable though and Harris brings the wide-open spaces of the Mara to life and subtly highlights the vast differences between the people forced to live in the slums and the rich who live well and go on safari. Her characters come to life too: Tessa Somerton's particularly good as she's torn between giving her husband the support he believes is his right and going to the police with her suspicions about what has happened. Harris has wisely restricted herself to a reasonably small cast of characters, but every one of them earns their place in the story.

The book has Harris's trademark readability: it's almost impossible not to read just another chapter and I finished it far too quickly. I have just one quibble about the book - it really should have had a final proofread to eliminate those small errors we all make.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

The story put me in mind of Out Of Africa by Karen Blixen which is also set in the Ngong Hills. You might also enjoy Mountains of the Moon by I J Kay.

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Buy Hunting Ground by Val Harris at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Hunting Ground by Val Harris at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Hunting Ground by Val Harris at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Hunting Ground by Val Harris at


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