A very eager - and rather naive - Australian lawyer, Kerry Maxwell, flies into South Africa to volunteer at a wildlife orphanage run by notorious vet, Graham Baird.
Graham is as jaded and reckless as Kerry is law-abiding and optimistic. When Kerry arrives at the animal sanctuary it's to the news that Graham is imprisoned in Mozambique following a shootout with elephant poachers. In the gunfight he killed the brother of corrupt politician and poaching kingpin Fidel Costa.
Kerry's earnest sense of justice takes her to Massingir to help Graham with his case, and into a world of danger. Kidnapped, chased, attacked and betrayed, Kerry learns the bitter truth about the complexities and deadly nature of the war on poaching.
Even the motivations of well-meaning charities, wealthy donors and private zoos are not all they appear.
Kerry's perilous entanglement may be what Graham needs to shake off his drunken cynicism and rejoin the fight for Africa's animals, but is it enough, and in time, to stop Costa's quest for revenge...
I meet some interesting people in my travels in Africa and I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with a few wildlife veterinarians – I even wrote a book with one, ‘Bush Vet’, with the late Dr Clay Wilson about his time in Botswana.
Veterinarians are front line soldiers in the fight to protect and conserve wildlife and they see first-hand the horrors of poaching, whether that’s the carcass of a rhino that’s been killed for its horn, or a wild dog or leopard caught in a wire snare set to catch an antelope for food.
I take my hat off to these brave and dedicated men and women and it seemed to me that a wildlife vet would make a great leading character for one of my books.
My leading man in ‘Captive’, the fictitious Dr Graham Baird, is hard-drinking, gun-toting vet who can also fly an ultra-light aircraft, which comes in handy when he has to rescue a damsel in distress. The people at Micro Aviation South Africa, in Nelspruit, makers of the ‘Bat Hawk’ light sports aircraft were a big help to me when researching the book.
Dr Hamish Currie, who splits his time between a domestic animal practice in Cape Town and working as a wildlife vet in Hoedspruit, also helped me with the research for ‘Captive’, which plays in South Africa and neighbouring Mozambique.
Hamish is also involved in a charity called ‘Back to Africa’ which has done some excellent work relocating African animals from zoos abroad back to their home ranges. I used this as the basis for a fictitious non-government organisation (NGO) in the book.
I’ve also met many other people involved in the NGO world, in Africa and elsewhere.
There are many, many good people doing great work to help protect wildlife, stop poaching, and educate and uplift communities bordering national parks (where poachers sometimes come from), and I’m proud to support several excellent charities.
However, when I talk to people working in NGOs time and again words such as ‘ego’ and ‘jealousy’ come up (their words, not mine). Charities are fighting for a shrinking dollar and they often support very different approaches to the problems of conservation and poaching. This can lead to conflict.
I wanted to highlight the good work that’s being done in Africa by volunteer organisation, but also show how competition and conflict can undermine the causes that all these organisations are ultimately trying to support.
In ‘Captive’, my main characters reflect the different approaches to the conservation conundrum.
I really want to stress that the people who helped me with the research for ‘Captive’ are all doing a fantastic job to help protect Africa’s endangered species.
There is no one ‘silver bullet’ to protect Africa’s wildlife and the war on poaching needs to be fought on different fronts and in different ways. To my mind, if there is one thing that’s missing it’s better coordination of the overall conservation effort.
At it’s heart, though, ‘Captive’ is a love story about a jaded veterinarian, a starry-eyed volunteer, and a continent that has captured both their hearts. Enjoy!