Murder On Safari by Elspeth Huxley
I recently picked up Murder on Safari by Elspeth Huxley (Penguin, 1938) and greatly enjoyed reading through it. Elspeth Huxley is a good writer who’s from Africa originally, and knows a great deal about safaris, guns, wildlife, and native culture, and it shows. This book was a no thrills mystery, but the mystery was well developed.
Also, “Elspeth Huxley”. What a name! I love it.
Murder On Safari starts out with only theft on safari. An investigator is called in, and goes undercover as a hunter to keep tails on the small party out on holiday. It’s a rich British family and their guides, attendants, and staff, and the matriarch’s jewels have been stolen. Before our police protagonist can figure out who did it, the matriarch is shot.
Then there are more victims, while other suspects outright disappear. No one matches the profile of the killer. The clues are stolen, but for no reason our hero can discern. A strong-willed female pilot seems to know too much. And a storm isolates their camp from civilization for days, while a band of illegally armed poachers makes their rounds nearby.
Can our investigator figure out what the hell is going on?
The Book Was Great
The mystery itself was at the heart of this book, and while I thought I knew who did it, it was only for plot/writing based reasons – how they accomplished what they did in the story, and who did and knew what, was held out of my reach until the end.
Plus, I’ll admit, I love any book with a map in the front:
There was a good amount of detail on the weapons used to hunt, which I had assumed was for flavor, but ended up being integral to the mystery. Had I paid more attention to that, I may have been able to figure it out. But I enjoy it when the evidence is right there in front of you – you and the protagonist both – and you’re both straining to figure out what it is you missed.
The characters were fine, hardy but nothing special, and there was a love story shoehorned in at the very, very end. That’s weird, but expected in books from this era, so I’m just glad that at least it didn’t awkwardly dominate the book.
There were also no “thriller” aspects here, nothing exciting that drove you to turn the page to see what happens next in the action. But you were given heavy motivation to figure out just how the thefts and murders occurred. So it was a page turner, but not an action book.
I definitely enjoyed Murder On Safari, though. It was just the right length and had me guessing until the end. Very cool.