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Edge of Eden

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Nicholas Proffitt reveals a postcolonial government grown corrupt and flatulent with the gains of independence being stolen away. A NEWSWEEK bureau chief in Nairobi, he writes with knowledge, compassion, and realism about the beautiful country, its peoples and customs, its wildlife, and its imperiled future.

Balancing two main characters, one a former white hunter and the other a Luo policeman, Proffitt tells an intriguing story of the search for a vicious gang of poachers who kill both animals and men. Armed with automatic rifles, they are led by Nisi, the Hyena, believed to be both man and beast. His calling card is a hyena tooth left in the victim’s mouth.

Peter Odongo, whose education and pursuit of justice makes him an outcast from his tribe and from his coworkers, is a homicide detective now assigned to the Tourism and Wildlife Ministry, who discovers and investigates the murders. He enlists the aid of Adrian Glenton, son of a now-landless white farmer, who has never known any other home than Kenya. NEWSWEEK journalist Robbie Lewis, a young woman canny from her days as a member of a Philadelphia street gang, complicates their plans but adds to the considerable play of humor.

As Glenton assembles his group of trackers, Proffitt excels with his description of tribal customs and culture and the varied terrain of desert, mountain, coast, and forest. Although their personalities and methods are in sharp contrast, Odongo and Glenton’s love of their native country gives them the heart to prevail.

A triumphant image of Jomo Kenyatta, leader against colonialism and Kenya’s first president, is still rampant on all government and some private walls, but he lies old, powerless, and dying, his party in questionable hands. With his death, his former free and charismatic spirit begins to move again over the land, a signal of hope.

Proffitt has a wonderful style, as big as Africa and as graceful as the Ngong hills and lush grasslands, and his characters are memorable. This is a major achievement, a worthy successor to his fine Vietnam novels GARDENS OF STONE and THE EMBASSY HOUSE.