Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Safari: Review

I picked up Parnell Hall's Safari on my latest trip to the library. It grabbed my interest because it takes place on a safari set in Zambia (and Zimbabwe) and I'm always on the look-out for stories set in different countries to help me with the Travel the World Challenge. It also had an interesting concept--a safari where the prey isn't wild game, but the travelers themselves. 

Stanley Hastings, part-time actor, part-time writer and most-of-the-time private investigator, and his wife Alice are off on their first-ever vacation, thanks to a small inheritance from Alice's great uncle. Alice has always wanted to go on a safari and she's determined that she and Stanley will have a great time taking photos of all the wild animals. This is strictly a no-kill trip to the wild. At least, that's what all the brochures say. But it isn't long before guides and guests are dropping faster than tsetse flies. And when Alice leaks the fact that Stanley is a private investigator (never mind that his primary investigations have to do with negligence claims), he finds himself thrust into the position of making an investigation. But some of his fellow travelers resent his questions and others don't think he's asking enough and start playing detective themselves. The only trouble is--those who ask the most questions wind up starring as next victim. Maybe being a detective on a murderous safari isn't the healthiest occupation...

I'll keep my comments short and to the point. The details about the actual safari--very good and interesting. The characters beyond Stanley and his wife--fair. Not the most interesting bunch ever, but not just a bunch of stereotypes either. Stanley and his wife? I have zero interest in them whatsoever. I have no idea why they stay married. The entire relationship appears to consist of Stanley being held on a very short leash--she's always monitoring what he's eating, assuming he's flirting with every woman in sight, and treating him like a child. She even tells him how to pack his gear, for crying out loud. Her main occupation seems to be insulting him in every way possible and she doesn't care if it's in front of total strangers or not. He spends his time ogling all the women and telling himself he's too old to do anything about it. And his investigative skills? Laughable at best. Of course, we're repeatedly told that he has no real experience investigating murder (really? I suppose the other 18 books are all about negligence claims--must make for exciting reading)--so we're not supposed to expect him to be Sherlock Holmes.  Trust me, he's not. 

The blurbs on the back of the book led me to believe that this was a humorous romp with a "wholly charming hero." The wisecracks aren't funny, the hero isn't particularly charming, and the mystery is no romp. Stanley doesn't really solve it through actual detective work--he just happens to have a sudden inspiration in the wrap-up scene that proves right and the killer falls into his not-so-cunning trap. ★★ purely for the descriptions of the safari itself and the scene-setting (which was rather good).

5 comments:

Jacqueline Fiedler said...

It sounds as though Stanley has not aged well. I read the first books in the series a long time ago and remember enjoying the humor, don't remember much about the mystery in them. But I sure do enjoy the humor and insight in your reviews, Bev! Thanks.

fredamans said...

That cover lulls you right in! Very powerful! Sorry it was a letdown. I would have picked it up on the cover alone. Great review!

Elizabeth B said...

I thought it would be fun to read about a mystery on a safari, sort of like Death on the Nile, but if it's a series I need to really like the main characters. Too bad.

Yvette said...

This makes me sad, Bev. I love Stanley from way back. In the early books I smiled and smiled and occasionally laughed out loud. I most especially howled whenever his boss at the ambulance chasing law office got into the mix. Of course my mind is blank when it comes to remembering his name. But every time that Stanley got arrested (which was often), his boss would show up to bail him out all the while excoriating the police in the most hilarious fashion. SO funny.

So sad that this current book didn't please. From your review I gather that Stanley is showing his age, not to mention his marriage.

Bev Hankins said...

Yvette, maybe the type of humor involved just doesn't do it for me. I don't see a great appeal for a "detective" (really I don't get how Stanley is one) who would repeatedly wind up in jail. It doesn't sound like he's ever been very competent...maybe that's why his wife keeps telling him he's not...