Author, Diana M. Hawkins has penned an action-packed thriller in which a couple battles poachers, ivory traffickers, and corrupt officials to protect embattled herds of elephants in Zimbabwe’s eastern Zambezi Valley.
Seven years after the brutal murders of his wife and children during a violent, government-sanctioned farm invasion, Pieter van Rooyen focuses his energies on trying to save wildlife in Zimbabwe’s national parks. In 2008, their beleaguered and underfunded staffs are helpless to stop rampant poaching, as depicted in a gut-wrenching scene where a dozen men wielding automatic rifles slaughter a family group of elephants for their ivory tusks. Jessica Brennan, a doctoral candidate studying elephants in the Zambezi Valley, joins forces with Pieter to pursue the poachers, who are working in collusion with a phony Zambian travel agency to supply a Chinese diplomat.
Jessica and Pieter’s pursuit leads to her kidnapping and a suspenseful confrontation in a Zambian warehouse. Interspersed throughout the human drama are realistic accounts of the elephants’ interactions, both in times of joy and tragedy, which will rend readers’ heartstrings. In the end, however, what lingers in readers’ memories is the sorrowful portrait of Zimbabwe, a nation whose leaders have squandered its magnificent natural resources for short-term political and financial gain.
Shadows along the Zambezi
Diana M. Hawkins
Tuesday April 3, 2001
Sandie van Rooyen was angry and upset. Her husband should never have left her and the children alone on their Zimbabwe farm. Robert Mugabe’s brutal land invasions were on the rise.
Why did he take the Cessna and fly off to Harare, just to collect tractor parts? If he’d waited, they’d have been delivered by the end of the week. Surely a day or two’s delay in the plowing didn’t matter that much. She thumped the dining room table with her fist, hurt by his obvious disregard for his family’s safety.
Before he left, he’d pulled her into his arms. “You’ll be fine,” he had assured her with his usual air of confidence. His kiss had lingered long, and for a brief moment or two, it seemed to erase all her fears. Then with a spring in his step, he walked away.
“Don’t worry Sandie,” he called out, as he turned to wave goodbye. “I’ve left a shotgun with Shoriwa and I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon; before you know it. You’ve got the emergency radio, remember.”
“Don’t worry?” Sandie scoffed under her breath as she watched him disappear. “That’s easy for you to say.”
Several hours later, she felt somewhat more composed. Nonetheless, the possibility of an impending attack still bothered her. In the sewing room, she found her nine-year-old daughter, Bernice, hunched over the Singer, trying to sew a straight seam. Sandie realized her daughter was frustrated since a wiggly line of stitches was the best she could do.
“Mummy, I can’t get it to stay straight.” Bernice frowned, tossing back a head of blonde curls. “The silly machine keeps pulling the material crooked.”
“Sweetheart, the secret is to guide the fabric, using the lightest touch. You aren’t in a tug-of-war with the machine, you know.” Sandie lifted the Singer’s sewing foot. She snipped the…