Stanley Hastings on safari? I don't think so. Neither did Stanley, until Alice's small inheritance—coupled with scrimping on a few luxuries like food and rent—allowed them to book a group trip to Zambia. Now the New York PI is hiking with lions, canoeing with hippos, and having close encounters with elephants and giraffes.It's a dangerous safari. The leader is a reckless, gun-ho, great white hunter who delights in leaping from the jeep with a hearty, "Come on, gang, let's see where this lion is going!" And a series of bizarre accidents quickly dwindles the group's numbers. Why was the guide's young spotter foolish enough to walk under a sausage fruit tree . . . just as one on the huge sausage fruits fell? How did the leaves of a poisonous plant wind up in a tourist's salad? Are these really accidents?A stabbing tips the scale. It's murder, and the only policeman in a hundred miles is a park ranger (whose only murder case was that of a ivory poacher shot dead in plain sight). It's up to Stanley to crack the case . . . if he can just avoid being eaten by a lion.
Edgar-finalist Hall's rollicking 19th Stanley Hastings mystery (after 2013's Stakeout) takes the hapless New York City PI and his wife, Alice, to Zambia and Zimbabwe on safari. Accompanying them are such diverse characters as a nubile young woman and her overprotective sibling, an American couple who live in Paris, two large women traveling together, and a cocky young man and his sullen friend. While misadventures with wild animals, cameras, canoes, and outdoor toilets preoccupy Stanley, he's alert enough to spot that the staff member found dead under a tree of sausage fruit has not perished by accident. When other deaths follow, the cash-strapped tour operator, fearing for his business, asks Stanley to ascertain if they are related and if the group is traveling with a killer. Hall's smooth style, ready sense of humor, and unusual take on murders in an untamed yet confined setting provide an enjoyable outing for armchair travelers.