Craig Mellow, a descendant of Robyn Ballantyne (A Falcon Flies) and central figure of Part Two of The Angels Weep, is now living in New York. Acclaimed for his first novel, he is unhappy as an expatriate and blocked as a writer, so he seizes the chance to return to Zimbabwe on an assignment for the World Bank. He is surprised but elated at the ease with which, in partnership with the affable Shona cabinet minister Peter Fungabera, he buys back his family estate,and when he is joined by the talented young photographer, Sally-Anne Jay, who campaigns to preserve the beauty of Africa's wildlife against the depredations of poachers, and with whom he is in love, his happiness seems assured. Only the strangely hostile reception accorded him by his erstwhile friend and colleague, the Matabele government minister Tungata, troubles him. But Craig is unaware of the dangerous currents of tribal conflict, Shona against Matabele, that swirl below the outwardly calm surface of Zimbabwean politics. When he and Sally-Anne are duped into aiding Fungabera frame Tungata as the head of a highly organised ivory-poaching operation, Craig is disturbed and baffled, but powerless to resist. Then suddenly Fungabera, his supposed partner turns on him, confiscating the prosperous estate he has painstakingly built up and accusing him of being a CIA agent. At last Craig realises his own naivety and the true extent of the treacherous plot against Tungata.
With resourcefulness and daring, he and Sally-Anne decide with Tungata's fiancée to free Tungata from the maximum security camp where he is tortured and held prisoner. Boldly they liberate the camp and effect a hair-raising escape from Shona soldiers through wild country, an underground lake and a cavern that threatens to entomb them. At last the head of the poaching ring is discovered to be Fungabera himself, but this appears a minor crime compared with the monstrous plot he had laid, pot only to overthrow the government of Zimbabwe, but to install himself as leader of all southern Africa as well.
Behind the action and tension there runs a new theme in this novel. The first three Ballantyne books focused on the drive for colonial wealth and the bitter struggle between black and white in Rhodesia's brief history. This fourth and last of the sequence shows the re-emergence of ancient tribal rivalries, African pitted against African. This forms a powerful and sinister background to an exciting story of adventure and escape.
Original title: The Leopard Hunts in Darkness
Genre: Fiction→ Adventure→ Wild Frontiers And Exotic Lands