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Book Review: Life and death in the Serengeti

By Robert McCool
Icon Columnist

I have read and reviewed more of Chris Bohjalian's books than any other author. Midwives, The Flight Attendant, The Plot, The Night Strangers, The Guest Room, and Hour of the Witch, just to name a few. Why? Because he's an excellent writer.

And he doesn't disappoint with his latest work, The Lioness (Doubleday, ISBN: 978-03855-4482-5).

This time his recipe is to put a group of Hollywood friends and relatives in Kenya, Africa on a photo safari during a time of upheaval in the neighboring countries. The time is 1964.

It's supposed to be a honeymoon trip for the world-wide known actress Kate Barstow and her new husband, David Hill, an art showroom gallery owner. Their seven friends are mostly Hollywood connected; her brother Billy, a psychologist and brother of Katie, his wife, a screenwriter, and an actress. There's also another actor who's black and on his own, and Katie's publicist and agent. Their safari guide is an older man (a reference to Ernest Hemingway's time as a hunter in Africa) named Charlie Patton, with his group of servants and guides and rangers that go on the safari with him. The service is top-notch considering the whole group is in the middle of Africa.

Things go well at first. Then the safari is taken captive by Russian mercenaries. They are primarily interested in Katie for the ransom money and Billy for some payback. He is a son of a CIA bigwig involved in a mind-altering drug experiment program on Africans.

Not everyone survives the imprisonment and harsh conditions.

This is a satisfying read that makes you part of Africa and its upheavals. You really feel as if you could be there in the Serengeti with Katie and her group of grossly unprepared movie people.

Needless to say, this is an excellent story that includes the issues of black Americans and slavery, the destruction of revolution and preservation of Africa's unique life forms. Get vicariously involved with the desperate plea for the animals still being hunted and killed needlessly.

But mostly enjoy this wonderful book.


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