Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dark Heart -- Exciting Enough to Make Even Me Turn Red

Nine months ago I received Tony Park’s Dark Heart as a Christmas gift from two of my Australian friends, Grahame and KK.

Since reading my first Park novel in 2009, I’ve been an enthusiastic fan of his tales of adventure set in the heart of Africa.  Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana…the author has traveled extensively in these countries, as well as much further afield.  In fact, Park spends half of each year on the Dark Continent, researching his novels and learning first-hand about the culture, traditions, geography and the wildlife of each region he travels to or writes about.
Author Tony Park with his mother Kathy 
The first rule a successful author learns is “Write what you know.” It’s obvious that Tony Park knows his stuff.  It’s not often that I read stories which make me feel a part of the setting but Park’s novels do exactly that.  I’ve rarely journeyed further than Maine’s borders but when engrossed in a tale by Tony Park, I feel as if I’m right there – on the veld, in the bush, in the jungle…or in a small African village, the city of Joberg or Kruger National Park.  

Dark Heart is well-named, for it is a dark tale.  There are few light or bright moments but then, there’s little to smile about when you find out you’ve been targeted for assassination. 

The story revolves around three characters who are bound by the events of their past.  In Rwanda during that country’s horrific civil war and subsequent genocide, Dr. Richard Dunlop, attorney Carmel Chang and photojournalist Liesl Nel are unknowingly caught up in one of that country’s biggest mysteries: Who was responsible for the shooting down of President Habyarimana’s aircraft?  That single act of terror was long thought to be the spark that ignited one of the world’s most vicious attempts to exterminate a populace.  Seventeen years later, a clue emerges which could very well solve the mystery… if the trio can stay alive long enough to follow the evidence to the guilty party.

The three work at cross-purposes, however.  After witnessing the horror of the battlefield in 1994, Richard and Liesl had succumbed to a night of ‘survivor sex’.  What was meaningless to them was a life-changing event for Carmel, who – as the woman in love with Richard – was devastated upon discovering the two together.

After Rwanda the three went their separate ways, battling personal demons and stockpiling guilt and blame for almost two decades.  When thrown together after surviving almost simultaneous murder attempts, cooperation is the last thing on their minds.  But without it, the odds of them surviving are practically non-existent.

Dark Heart is spellbinding.  It might sound hypocritical to say that, since I began reading the book almost nine months ago and have just finished it today…but that is the nature of the beast that is my life, right now.  I have only read ONE novel in the past year and this is it.  I took this unscheduled ‘day off’ and treated myself to a few hours of pleasure…sitting outside under blue skies with a gentle autumn breeze tickling the hair at my neck…and I read.  I was so engrossed in Park’s latest tale that I didn’t even notice as my Irish skin got only its second sunburn of the season –the first having made itself painfully apparent after a weekend at the wood splitter in August.

Dark Heart is well worth the read, as are all Park’s novels – from Far Horizon right up through to African Dawn.  Not only are the stories entertaining, they are educational and deliciously descriptive.  Take the time to immerse yourself in another world – an exciting one – and share my guilty pleasure.

Just…don’t forget your sun-block when you do. I recommend SPF15, at a minimum….

1 comment:

  1. I tried flipping the photo of me holding Dark Heart...but the title still came out backwards. Hmmmmmm..... :)