Suzanne Arruda

Suzanne Arruda
The Crocodile’s Last Embrace

Jade del Cameron swaggers. There’s just no other word for it. She stands five foot seven—taller in boots—and exudes confidence from every pore. Jade is a photojournalist, which in the 1920s means she pretty much gets to invent her job as she goes. That suits the feisty heroine right down to the ground.

No stuffy drawing rooms here! Jade rackets around British East Africa (that’s Kenya to you) on a motorcycle, her pet cheetah racing at her side. She takes on ivory poachers, witch doctors, poisoners, and leopards without turning a hair; not for nothing is her Swahili nickname Simba Jike (Lioness). But in the end, Jade’s most formidable adversary turns out to be the mother of her dead fiancé.

I am constantly tickled by the wildly inventive exclamations. “Spit fire and save the matches” is a classic, as are “Saint Peter’s tailor” and “my aunt Wilhemina’s bustle.”

Then there’s the considerable fascination of East Africa during this decade—familiar territory to readers of Isak Dinesen and Elspeth Huxley. Jade crosses paths with big-game hunters, British civil servants, coffee planters, and even the decadent Happy Valley set, though she belongs to no particular group.

In addition, Suzanne Arruda’s background as a zoologist lends credence to the details of African animal life. If she says an elephant hides easily in the forest, or that the crocodile has a transparent third eyelid, you can be sure it’s true.

Last Embrace, the penultimate novel in the series, serves up a troop of Girl Guides practicing their bow and arrow skills, a plane crash, an abduction, an eerie moonlight stakeout, and a hilarious sequence of cross-dressing. Hang on to your solar topee—and to “sweet Millard Fillmore on a pogo stick”—as you careen through Jade’s spine-tingling adventures.

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