With a nod to some characters and organisations from Tony Park’s previous book, The Cull, Scent of Fear starts slowly, introducing us to the characters and setting the scene for what is an action-packed, stunning ending with a twist. While there are references to previous novels, too, there is no need to have read any of them to be able to follow this one perfectly.
Set in South Africa, Sean Bourke is an Afghanistan War veteran whose nightmares and addictions destroyed his marriage to ex-wife Christine. They have managed to maintain a friendship however, as they work together to stop poaching in her farm and the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. Sean works with a tracker dog who is also his best friend, Benny, and when poachers start targeting not just his team, but the tracker dogs that specialise in finding bombs, the war on poaching takes a deadly turn.
Because Park’s previous novels generally have a fair splattering of action from start to end, this novel has a slightly different feel. While there are some moments of action at the start, there is also a fair amount of storytelling, conversations and conundrums before the big finish. The conundrums are around poaching and game-hunting: how do you stop poaching when the poachers will be unemployed and starving without this as their job? What is the point in punishing the individual poachers when it is the smugglers and buyers who are actually the foundation of the problem? Is it also possible to carefully and caringly conserve animals by providing hunting opportunities?
I did not expect to come away from this book with so many questions to ponder – I was simply looking for entertainment – and yet I got both.
Tony Park was born in Sydney and in his own words, “My wife, Nicola, and I first went to Africa on what we thought was going to be a once in a lifetime holiday in 1995…” He now divides his time between 2 homes, one in Sydney the other in South Africa. With knowledge of the landscape, he has once again delivered the goods for a fabulous page turner that will keep you up all night and thinking about it long after you finish.
Reviewed by Michelle Baylis
Rating out of 10: 8
Distributed by: Pan Macmillan Australia
Released: November 2018