by Tony Park
Cover Artist: Galyna Andrushko/Shutterstock and Guenter Guni/iStock
Review by Linda Marie Schumacher
St. Martin's Press Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250055590
Date: 17 November 2015 List Price $28.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
Ivory is a book full of atypical characters. The first is Alex Tremain, a compassionate pirate. Alex was born in Mozambique to European parents where his parents owned a luxury coastal hotel in, what was then, colonial Mozambique. When Alex was young, the colonial era ended with a civil war, the European government was ousted, and Alex and his family fled. Alex grew up, ended up joining the military and developing the skills that he uses in his current role as a pirate. Eventually, he was able to regain ownership of his family's hotel and he and his group of brigands operate from there.
The hotel was badly damaged during the civil war and to fund his restoration projects, Alex and his team board ships in the waters off of Mozambique and steal from them. What makes Alex the "compassionate pirate" is that Alex and his team make sure the ships' crews stay safe and, at least for Alex, piracy is a means to an end. After he secures enough cash and building materials to restore his hotel, he plans to go straight and be a business owner. It is hard to believe that the pirate can be the good guy of the story, but he is.
The second character is George Penfold. He is the owner of a large shipping company called Penfold Shipping. Having inherited the company from his father, Penfold had his own wild streak in his youth as a merchant seaman, but now is a respectable business man, at least on the surface. I will spare you the details of how the reader's opinion changes about George Penfold because so much of it is interesting subplots in the story, but the respectable businessman turns out to be the bad guy in the story.
The third is Jane Humphries. Jane is the corporate lawyer for Penfold Shipping. She is athletic, beautiful, and smart. Unfortunately, she is also a little flighty and for every good decision she makes in her personal life, she seems to make the equivalent number of bad ones. As the story opens, Jane is having an affair with George Penfold and, as she is desperately scared to fly on an airplane, she is traveling from England to South Africa aboard one of the Penfold Shipping vessels.
All three characters cross paths while Alex and his team board a small freighter to steal some goods, but while on board, they see the engineer from a much larger Penfold Shipping vessel exchange an envelope with the smaller ship's captain and then quickly depart. They find out from the captain of the small freighter that the envelope contains diamonds. Alex and his crew board the larger vessel, appropriately named Penfold Son after the man now running the company, where Jane happens to be traveling. During the event, the captain of the Penfold Son gives the envelope to Jane, but never reveals to Jane (or to the reader) why the envelope is so important. Jane escapes in the Penfold Son's lifeboat, but the captain was killed in the event (not by one of Alex's men) and nobody but Jane knows the envelope was ever removed from the ship.
Alex and his crew bring Jane to the partially-restored island hotel, and Jane quickly calls her married lover to say she is safe. When Penfold asks about missing envelope, Jane questions whether he is really interested in her, or just in the contents of the envelope. Alex and his crew treat Jane perfectly, and help her to get to South Africa for her planned meeting with George Penfold. Now the lives of the characters are sufficiently entangled to provide a great mystery for the rest of the story. There are many minor characters and subplots that are also great, but there are far too many for me to discuss them all here. I recommend that you read the book.
On the non-plot side, I really enjoyed the journey through Africa that Ivory brought to me. I know so little about that continent, and the travels of the characters and the history of the nations were lots of fun to read. Ivory as a title is a little misleading, because there is so much more to the story. One of the heists that Alex and his crew pull off involves stealing ivory from one of the South African National Parks. It is at the culmination of the novel, so the details are very important, and I won't spoil anything here. What I did learn throughout the story, was lots about elephants, where they live and how the various African nations are involved to help ensure their safety. It was fun to read.
Ivory is highly recommended. I loved the story. It is full of suspense, surprises and great characters.