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by Edith McClintock
Five Star, February 2013
256 pages
ISBN: 1432826387

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

If this debut novel by Edith McClintock comes across as realistic, it's because the author experienced the setting and situations if not the murders in the book. The protagonist, 25-year-old Emma Parks, has just completed a stint in the Peace Corps when she signs up for six months in a Suriname rainforest, studying monkeys (much like McClintock, who did the very same).

McClintock does a wonderful job describing spider monkeys, poisonous caterpillars, and an Amazon river filled with piranhas and anacondas. Just as dangerous are the other workers with the International Wildlife Conservation. They are constantly at odds with each other, and Emma finds herself an outsider most of the time (a budding romance, however, lightens the book a bit).

If that isn't enough to scare anyone away from a jungle jaunt, McClintock throws in a couple of murders, beginning with Jack West, the agency director who seemingly drowns after a party. The others don't seem to care too much about catching the murderer, even if it has to be someone in their midst. But Emma can't help but investigate. After a second person is killed, it becomes even more dangerous for her to continue probing.

While the plotting is a bit light, McClintock has written a likable character with an authentic setting. The jungle may not be everyone's idea of a great place to live, but it's a fun place to visit (and McClintock provides further information in a Q&A in the back of the book). One only hopes she has more exotic locales to write about. This could be the start of an interesting series.

Lourdes Venard is a newspaper editor in Long Island, N.Y.

Reviewed by Lourdes Venard, March 2013

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