The Leopard’s Prey
Fourth in Arruda’s Jade del Cameron series, The Leopard’s Prey is thoroughly engaging from beginning to end. American Jade is living in Kenya in 1920, supplementing her income as a photojournalist by working for an American zoological company, wrangling and photographing the animals they collect. She finds herself playing detective once again when a body is discovered on the coffee plantation of her friends, the Thompsons. The victim, the co-owner of the local dry goods store, was not just an unpleasant blackmailer; he was last seen arguing with Sam Featherstone, the decidedly independent Jade’s suitor.
As Jade, Sam, and their friends work to clear Sam’s name, they must cope with all manner of obstacles: Sam’s malaria, competition for Jade’s hand by a pushy American, the capture of wild animals before they are killed by local hunters, and the arrest of the African boy Jelani for inciting a riot. Arruda accomplishes the delicate balancing act of keeping true to the place and time in which the story is set without imposing present-day sensibilities. In 1920s Kenya, Jade sees the corralling of African animals for zoos as protection rather than plunder. Equally truthful is the growth of Jade’s relationship with Sam, and I’m sure the fifth in the series will find her attempting to reconcile her feelings for him with her desire for independence.