Publication Date – 27 November 2018
Australian author Tony Park returns with a blast, as he once again dives into the heart of Africa to present his latest high-octane and deeply captivating novel, Scent of Fear.
Sean Bourke, former contractor in Afghanistan, has returned to his native South Africa and now works for his ex-wife’s company, which provides security dogs and handlers for the country’s game reserves to help stop the spread of poachers. Out on a routine anti-poaching patrol, new recruit Tumi Mabasa is almost killed in an explosion and her dog sufferers severe injuries. Someone has been rigging IEDs in the game preserves specifically to target the dogs and their handlers, and for Sean, the war he has spent years trying to escape from has suddenly followed him home.
Teaming up with Tumi and his best friend and former war colleague Craig Hoddy, Sean attempts to hunt down the bomber targeting them. As more attacks hit close to home and several members of the team are caught in the crossfire, Sean must go above and beyond to stop a sinister poaching syndicate and save his friends. But can Sean overcome these outside forces in addition to his own demons?
Tony Park is an interesting author. A former member of the Australian Defence Force, he has spent significant parts of his life in Southern Africa, where he sets most of his novels. Park has been writing since 2003, and his novels often feature modern militaristic protagonists adventuring in African wilderness. Scent of Fear is Park’s 16th novel, although he has also produced several non-fiction books, including the 2009 release War Dogs, which Park wrote with former Australian Army dog handler Shane Bryant.
Scent of Fear is a fast-paced and action-packed novel that explores the horrors of the poaching business in Africa in the midst of a thrilling adventure. Park creates an exhilarating novel that sets his damaged protagonist against a ruthless and at times hidden group of antagonists. The story makes good use of multiple perspectives to tell this tale from many different angles, which not only throws a new light into the conspiracy surrounding the main plot, but which also enhances the book’s many action sequences. The multiple perspectives also allow the histories of the book’s various characters to be explored in greater detail, to create a fuller and more intense narrative. The various motivations of the book’s protagonists and antagonists are displayed for the reader, and I was particularly intrigued by the deep examination of Sean’s inner issues, including a crippling gambling addiction that plays into the story extremely well. Overall this is quite an enjoyable storyline that has some surprising twists and excellent action sequences.
One of the most noticeable features of Scent of Fear is the excellent portrayals of the African landscape throughout the course of the story. Park is obviously very keen to show off the incredible locations that are a feature of his adopted homeland, which is a massive boon to his storytelling. There are a number of scenes set deep in the African bush, and the author does a fantastic job highlighting the beauty and danger contained out in these magnificent locations. In addition to the landscape, Park has also tried to show off various points of South African culture and lifestyles throughout the course of the book’s narrative. While the story is mostly set within the game preserves, there are a few city scenes, and the characters spend time discussing their lives and their pasts within South Africa. There are even a couple of scenes set within neighbouring Mozambique that may prove intriguing to various readers. I liked the way that Park constantly utilised South African phrases, greetings and slang throughout his dialogue, which gave the whole story a sense of authenticity. The background location is definitely a highlight of this book, and I hope to explore more of Africa in Park’s future novels.
It is probably important to note that this is not a great book for animal lovers, as Park takes a deep look at the horrors of the poaching trade and issues created by this destructive hunting. Poaching is obviously an issue dear to the author’s heart, as he presents a dark, no-punches-pulled look at the illegal trade in African wildlife and the lengths that some people will go to get the money associated with it. This is an intriguing centre to the book’s plot, and Park is clearly knowledgeable on the subject, discussing motivations for local and international poachers, details of the types of protections game reserves utilise and the various tricks and techniques poachers utilise. Scent of Fear initially focuses on the hunt for rhinos and their horns, but Park also spends time to explore a current epidemic in lion skeleton trading, which is an alternative to tiger bones in some cultures. The examinations of the human costs of poaching are examined throughout the book, as Park highlights the fact that anti-poaching patrols are frequently coming under attack in Africa. All of this serves as a grim backdrop to the story, but one that helps create a story with more social conscience.
I also really enjoyed the continued use of dogs throughout the book, as Park goes out of his way to sing the praises of the anti-poaching dogs that are currently being utilised successfully throughout Africa. There are several canine characters throughout the book that play a significant role in the book’s action and investigative scenes and I really enjoyed seeing how the dogs are helping to save the African wildlife. The author really invests in the utilisation of the dogs, and the reader gets to see their training and their full operational capacities, and the story is sprinkled with the protagonists calling out the dogs various commands. As I mentioned above, Park has previously written about dogs used in warzones, and this becomes an important part of Scent of Fear, with the poachers utilising explosives to attempt to take out the protagonists. This is another fascinating element of this book, and one that many readers will find incredibly interesting. Be warned, some dogs do get hurt in this book, so it might not be for everyone.
This is another wonderful addition from Australian author Park, who once again takes his readers to the very heart of modern Africa. With some interesting concepts, varied characters and a thrilling story, Scent of Fear is a great book to check out.