Together, New York City surgeon Paul Branson and his wife, Nicki, had a dream: to help the people of the African bush. After Nicki’s untimely death, Paul decides to honor her memory and carry on alone. In South Sudan, he channels grief into hope, caring for villagers and working to save Leza, a little girl with leukemia who has captured his heart.
Meanwhile, Jason Quinn, terrorist leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, has deadly plans for the people of South Sudan. But he needs information to carry out his plot—information from research Paul did for the US government years ago. Quinn will stop at nothing to obtain this secret intelligence, even kidnap a dying child. Now, in order to save the ailing Leza and stop a genocide, Paul must go beyond his medical training to journey into a world of brutal terrorism and global intrigue. With only instinct and his faith as guides, how far will he go to save the lives of thousands?
Paul took a shallow breath. The panther’s icy stare bored into him. Paul could not look away. At any moment this sleek black cat could be on top of him, tearing the flesh from his bones.
The panther gave a deep, guttural growl.
Buru stepped from his hut holding his spear high. He moved to the edge of the clearing and stopped.
The panther grunted and took two steps closer to Paul.
Buru stood five meters to Paul’s right and one meter in front of him, creating a triangle: two men, one panther. Buru held his spear poised to strike.
The growls of the beast had drawn the village elders from their huts – all of them seasoned hunters. Now they took positions to Paul’s left. Each readied his weapon and stood like a statue, waiting. Paul knew these men were the best hunters in the region, but the panther didn’t seem to notice them – only Paul.
As he stared into its dark eyes, Paul’s muscles tightened. For a moment he thought about running or backing away. Slowly he slid his foot to one side. The cat crouched, and Paul froze.
Buru whispered, “Do not move. Do not look away. He is the Ghost of Africa. He comes for a purpose.”
From the corner of his eye, Paul saw Buru lower his spear and lay it on the ground. The other elders followed his lead. Paul’s breath quickened.
The panther slowly closed the cap, stopping barely a meter in front of Paul. Its sleek black fur rippled over powerful muscles as it moved.
Paul calmed the panic welling inside. The panther studied him, mouth closed and ears pinned back.
Slowly, as if guided by an unseen force, Paul squatted on the ground in front of the Ghost of Africa. The black cat towered above him. Paul’s heart pounded harder. He knew he was at this animal’s mercy. The panther growled and lowered its head, moving within centimeters of Paul, who saw nothing but dark, piercing eyes as the cat’s hot breath burned his face. He refused to break the gaze.
Suddenly the panther took a single step back and screamed loud enough to make Paul’s ears ring. Crouching as if to pounce, it suddenly leapt over Paul and disappeared into the tall grass.
Chief Chima entered the clearing. He held Paul’s face between his hands almost ceremoniously. “Look at me.” He studied Paul. “The Dark One has spoken to us – to you. I saw it. […] This is a warning to us. You have been spared as few men have. Evil is coming.” Chima turned and walked toward his hut. He spoke without facing Paul. “From now on, I will call you Abdu. You have been chosen.”
“Chosen? For what? What are you saying, Chima?”
“I’m saying that you are The Chosen.”
“To do what?”
“To save us.”
“From what? Evil that’s coming?”
“Chosen to do what must be done, Abdu. Come, we must prepare. We have been warned. The spirits have been faithful. Show me what that means.”
In The Ghost of Africa, Don Brobst has given us a tense, action-packed thriller that does not shy away from some of the gritty realities of our world. And when I say action-packed, I mean the action doesn’t stop!
After mourning the death of his wife, Dr. Paul Branson returns to Africa to carry on his medical work in the African village of Matta; in particular, chemo treatment for a young girl, Leza. When he arrives he learns that a black panther is in the vicinity, known to the locals as ‘The Ghost of Africa’ because its presence means something evil is about to happen. Paul’s belief in God does not leave room for superstitions, and when he is singled out by the panther – stares into its eyes, centimetres from his own, and feels its breath on his face – the last thing he expects is to watch it leap over him and disappear into the grass. To the villagers, it’s a sign: Paul has been chosen by the spirits to save them from the evil that is coming.
He may not share their superstitions, but when he is abducted by terrorist leader Jason Quinn for his knowledge of a powerful chemical that will be used to wipe out thousands of people in South Sudan, he has little choice but to do what he can to prevent the scheme from proceeding. His life, Leza’s life, his daughter’s life, and the lives of thousands of Sudanese depend on it.
It is obvious that this author knows both Africa and medicine (says she with minimal experience of either!), and these details gave a definite air of authenticity to the novel’s setting. At times I found myself a little sceptical of some of the things Paul managed to pull off – he seemed almost indestructible – but for the most part I was too engrossed in the story to think about it.
For me, the one thing that could have improved this novel was a bit more polish on the writing. The story itself was a riveting read, but sometimes it told rather than showed – particularly in relation to character interactions and motivations – and occasionally the dialogue and prose came across as stilted or unnatural. There were also times when I craved some stronger, more emotive verbs or more utilisation of figurative language. They’re little nuances, but they would have given the novel that edge it was missing.
A word to the sensitive – there are two scenes that involve surgery performed without the benefit of anaesthetic. I would not call them graphic, but they are mildly descriptive. That said, I am one of those persons who doesn’t stomach medical procedures well, and I survived with a few grimaces (and by not letting my imagination get too involved). There is plenty of warning that the scenes are approaching so readers who wish to skip these sections should find it easy to do so.
There is also a fair amount of violence in the novel, and some mention of human trafficking – again, not very graphic, but not glossed over either. Unfortunately that is the reality of the world this book takes us to. It is something the main character wrestles with and is certainly not glorified in any way, but it is a confronting reminder of the kind of destruction sin has wrought in our world.
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Release date: 26 April 2016
Publisher: Waterfall Press
Author’s website: http://www.donbrobst.com/