Mark of the Lion

Written by Suzanne Arruda
Review by Ellen Keith

American Jade del Cameron served as an ambulance driver in France in the Great War and saw her love, pilot David Worthy, get shot down. She vowed to fulfill his dying wish that she find his unknown half-brother. That vow takes her to Nairobi in 1919, where David’s father had died in 1915, presumably of a hyena attack in his hotel. She infiltrates the Happy Valley set, where she makes friends and raises a few suspicions. Her ostensible reason for being there is as a journalist for the magazine The Traveler. It is in that guise that she proposes a safari to Tsavo, and it is on safari that all secrets are revealed.

Arruda blends mysticism (the villain takes the form of an animal to kill his victims) with near-caricature. Jade is almost too good to be believed – killing hyenas, fixing cars, standing up for natives against arrogant expatriates – all things a proper young woman does not do. The arrogant expatriates themselves are broadly drawn, but that characterization is probably not far off the mark. The villain is so villainous as not to appear out of place in a penny dreadful, and the mystical bent feels ill-fitting on this particular character. Still, Jade’s friends are drawn sympathetically, and Jade’s nightmares about the war give her a humanity that her other Superwoman skills belie. If this is the first in a series, I’ll happily read the second.