Reviewed by Ian Lipke
This is an adventure story told in the traditional way with each event nicely dealt with in isolation from the next – a cracking good yarn from which the tension never eases until the last page.
Gone to Ground’s totally apt, dual-level title works immediately. A clever choice of words suggesting intelligence (and slick salesmanship). The storyline is conventional but told with a sparkle that never dies. A nasty senior doctor vents his spite on surgeon Rachel Forrester by transferring her to the dark wilderness of the African jungle. With violence in the area increasing, Rachel nevertheless must choose not to evacuate, since a child is too ill to be moved. Then a small group of soldiers arrives and Rachel’s only chance of flying out has to be foregone to make a seat available on the last plane for a wounded man. Rachel and the remainder, led by the hero Anton, choose to walk out.
That’s when the adventure begins. Rachel’s unfamiliarity with jungle life brings about situations, both dangerous and humorous, and lights a flame in the hereto arid breast of the chief spunk (hero).
There is never any doubt that this little group will make it out alive. Who would dare to deny a hero who can cut a snake in two with a thrown pocketknife? The question is: will there be casualties? Will there be an opportunity for the display of Rachel’s formidable surgical skills? Will the heat building between Rachel and Anton be doused while their travel situation is so dire?
That’s for me to know and you to find out.
But I will talk about other things…like the author’s writing style. Who could have guessed that this is a debut novel? Readers will find an exciting story with no loose ends, with each character fully defined, easily distinguished from any other, each acting appropriate to the position held in the story and in accordance with the unfolding of the story.
One of the valuable techniques that the writer employs regularly is the signing-off of a significant episode before moving to the next. A highly charged scene involves Rachel and a cluster of spiders. This not only raises the temperature of the attraction between the two leads but, more importantly, it involves a feeling of terror whose genuineness is never questioned. When the episode is finished, it is finished. Later, there is an episode involving butterflies. This is a pivotal scene of remarkable beauty, never once related to the spider scene.
The writer knows when to unleash passion and when to withhold it. The two leads share a kiss and desire overflows, but the author realizes that the circumstances are not quite right, and she withholds the leavening of passion by physical means until, perhaps, a more suitable moment.
The conclusion to this beautiful tale is as strong as the rest of the story. The chief villains show up, wreak injury and disruption, are themselves sorted out, leaving Rachel to hold the day with a remarkable piece of surgery.
I’m inclined to judge this book one of the greatest works of fiction to cross my desk this year. It is remarkable because it is so ordinary yet manages to manipulate reader interest despite its ordinariness.
Well done, Bronwyn Hall.
by Bronwyn Hall