Independent Book Review of DEAD ON THE DELTA
by Steph Huddleston
“A complex conservation thriller set on the Okavango Delta."
The fifth installment in the Alexa Williams series, Dead on the Delta sees lawyer Alexa Williams travel with her boyfriend Reese to Botswana to participate in four months of lion research. But when Alexa and Reese witness the poaching of a herd of elephants near their research site, they soon become embroiled in the complexity (and, in this case, danger) of conservation politics. The depth of research undertaken in the writing of this book is admirable and adds a-whole-nother level of credibility, effectiveness, and engagement to the story. But what sets it apart is Knowlton’s ability to incorporate important information into such a plot-driven narrative. It results in a well-balanced and intelligent thriller.
Though this is a part of a larger series, it can be read as a stand-alone. Knowlton provides enough background information for us to understand the history of Williams’s character and to engage both new readers and those returning to the series. But readers seeking to know Alexa on a deeper level may find that reading the other books before this one could be helpful. The story is engaging enough to keep our attention, but I did long for more out of our characters and wished they would have been more proactive rather than reactive overall. In Dead on the Delta, the characters battle not just the issue of poaching itself, but the ingrained attitudes toward conservation of the nation. The narrative does not present a simplistic answer to a complex problem, for which the author should be commended. Instead, the myriad of cultural and socio-economic issues that must be considered when it comes to conservation are discussed with grace and intelligence here. Such a complex political discussion could easily make for dry reading, but Knowlton’s prose and thrilling plot enlivens the discussion. Some readers may find the descriptions of animal violence distressing and may wish to approach this book with caution. While Knowlton does not shy away from these events, be assured that the author does not write the violence in a way that seems gratuitous. The author’s approach seems well balanced and thoughtfully researched, but of course, it is possible I missed something that readers of different backgrounds might not have. Dead on the Delta hits all the expected beats of a good suspense thriller. Readers of the genre will be satisfied with the level of pay-off in the conclusion and appreciate the insight which pulls back the curtain on bureaucracy. Suspense and thriller fiction fans have plenty to look forward to with Dead on the Delta.