Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison

I really enjoyed this book that had so much packed into it - crime novel, love story, political commentary, family drama, and expose of health and human rights crises in southern Africa.

Zoe Fleming is a 29 year old American lawyer working in Zambia for an NGO devoted to combating child sexual assault.  She is carrying on the legacy of her mother who was a philanthropist who devoted her life to bettering the lives of those less fortunate in Africa until she was killed in a plane crash while on one of her African missions.  Zoe's father is a US senator who is a candidate for president.  Both Zoe's parents come from significant wealth and she is set to inherit a large sum of money held in trust for her until her 30th birthday.

One night a young girl with Down's Syndrome, Kuyeya, is raped and abandoned in a strange neighbourhood.  Her case is brought to the attention of Zoe's NGO and they must work to figure out who the girl is, what exactly happened to her and who perpetrated the crime.  They are not even sure of her age.  This  event sets in motion Zoe's quest - she delves into the Kuyeya's past, and that of her deceased mother to piece together both a suspect and a motive for the crime.  Her unlikely ally is a Zambian police officer, Joseph - this is where the love story comes into play.  Politics come into play when the suspect turns out to be the son of a wealthy former cabinet minister and a High Court judge - this leads to tampering with evidence and witnesses, threats against Zoe and the other members of the team and attempts to bribe judges.

The case also pits Zoe against her father - a pillar of his campaign is reducing US foreign aid which Zoe sees as so necessary when it becomes apparent how hard it is to obtain tests that would be routine in the US such as DNA testing to identify perpetrators or MRIs to determine the extent of injuries.

Everyone in the book has secrets - Kuyeya, her mother, the perpetrator and his parents, Joseph and Zoe herself.  Unravelling the secrets and following the criminal investigation and trial made this book a real page turner.  I couldn't wait to see how it all ended.

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