By: Oliver Dowson
Publisher: BKssss Publishing
Publication Date: November 17, 2023
Review Date: January 2, 2024
On the heels of his first book (The Repurposed Spy), Oliver Dowson delivers book two in his series, Spies on Safari. The setting is the African bush, but this particular ‘safari’ isn’t quite devoted to hunting animals per se.
The story opens in an unimpressive (and quite cold) library. It was after hours, and Brian wasn’t sure what he was getting himself into. One thing he knew for sure was he needed to venture out and meet new people. He heard about a book club that convened after hours and had an interest in learning more about it. His first impression when he looked at the members was they didn’t quite look the part of weekly ‘book clubbers.’ Humphry, the club leader, arrived to begin the discussion promptly at six o’clock. Brian couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that someone would actually name their kid Humphry, let alone the fact that his appearance didn’t fit the name. He looked more like a Blackbeard with his abundance of thick, black facial hair. Humphry took his seat and explained the ground rules (for the benefit of newcomer Brian), "…All of us must adhere to the rules. No one is to say anything of a violent, sexual, or political nature or use crude language that may cause offense. Unless it is part of the text of the book, of course. No one is allowed to enquire any personal details of the other members of the group. Anyone may leave or return at any time without comment either way. Is that all understood?" (pg. 16). Brian looked around at the members a little more closely after the rules had been read. While he hadn’t been paying specific attention to Humphry (and what he’d rattled off moments ago), his suspicions were heightened as he took a closer look at the people seated around him. His immediate thought was: I don’t think this is really a book club...
It seems Brian’s intuition was right when a petite woman (not to be confused with frail) referred to as ‘Chameleon’ arrives out of nowhere to deliver their next assignment. Huh? Assignment? What about the book club? Chameleon wastes no time in laying out the plan. Somewhere deep in the wilds and jungles of the African wilderness, a coveted mine exists—a mine that was virtually off the radar in every sense of the word. The ‘client’ this team of misfits was about to service hired Chameleon, and was willing to risk everything to find the hidden treasure. But, was this the true mission? In a vague and (somewhat) matter-of-fact manner, Chameleon explains they will be on a safari expedition that will cross the vast African continent from Botswana to Namibia. Of course, they would encounter the dangers of crocodiles, lions, and cheetahs, but these typical foes' signature to the jungle would pale in comparison to the real adventure about to unfold. Chameleon took a quick look around the room and was glad to see Latviana and Pilot were present, which meant she would be working with them once again. Their unique skills in deception and strategic planning, along with enviable aerial maneuvers, were critical to this latest mission. What none of them knew was one Ronald Jones, a diabolical character with a personal mission of vengeance, would emerge from the shadows—an unexpected presence that wasn’t divulged as part of the initial mission presented to Chameleon.
While I have not had the pleasure of reading Mr. Dowson’s first novel (The Repurposed Spy), I will say he is on fire in Spies on Safari. The intricacy of the high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse that plays out across the pages is edge-of-your-chair excitement. Once the team arrives in Africa at their base camp, he sets scenes with just enough seeds of information to keep the story moving: "...Assume danger. Always. It is possible that another lodge will send out a team of workers or replace their staff, but we don’t expect that anywhere you are going. And it’s the wrong season for making documentaries...Remember that your mission is to discover information. Covertly. You are not there to disrupt whatever they’re doing, illegal or otherwise. Try not to be seen..." (pg. 83). The dialogue is credible, and each character has just enough quirk to their persona to make him/her plausibly real. Even though Spies on Safari is the second book in Mr. Dowson’s series, it has brilliant qualities and rich adventure to make this novel worthy of standing on its own merit. Well done Mr. Dowson! I am a fan.
Quill says: Spies on Safari will welcome back fans of The Repurposed Spy and gladly accept newcomers to the next great adventure in this series.
To learn more about Spies on Safari: The Repurposed Spies, Book 2, please visit the author’s website at: https://oliverdowson.com/spies-on-safari/