Mama Rose returns in an intriguing and complex tale of revenge and murder!
It’s 2016 in Nanyuki, Kenya, and Rose Hardie is preparing to attend the Rhino Charge, the annual charity off-road car race through the Maasai Mara preserve and one of the highlights of the Kenyan sporting calendar. Since its inception 27 years previously, “Mama” Rose and her husband, Craig, have been fixtures at the event, volunteering their time to help make the charity event run smoothly. But this year is different as Craig’s health has deteriorated beyond his ability to participate, and both know that he’ll never attend another Rhino Charge. Rose has asked her young friend, Chloe Collins, whose husband, Dan, is away for work, to come in Craig’s stead. This year’s race is especially exciting for the friends in Nanyuki. Their neighbor, young Thabiti Onyango, has been asked to join the prestigious Bandit Bush Hogs team as their mechanic.
But strange things begin to happen around the Bandit Bush Hogs camp right away; things go missing, equipment is tampered with, any one of which could disqualify the team from competing. A rival team, the Rhino Force, is suspected of being behind the sabotage, but there is no real evidence to bring forward. The Bandit Bush Hogs can overcome all obstacles and start the race along with all the other participants. However, when negotiating a particularly dangerous slope, the winch strap they are using snaps, sending the car end over end, injuring their driver, an unpleasant young man named Mayur Chauhan, who is also the team manager’s eldest son. Miraculously, Mayur escapes with only scrapes, bruises, and a broken arm, who is also the team manager’s eldest son. Miraculously, Mayur escapes the crash with just cuts, bruises, and a broken arm, but the team is out of the race. With Thabiti in the hot seat, blamed for causing the accident through incompetence or negligence, Mama Rose gathers together her Nanyuki friends to find the real saboteurs and prove Thabiti’s innocence.
This series just keeps getting better and better. Building on relationships forged and plotlines begun in previous novels, opening Rhino Charge was like returning home to old friends. The author introduces new faces, but the recurring cast of characters’ continuing lives is the stable and very satisfying foundation on which this cozy mystery series sits. Besides the excitement of the mystery and the Rhino Charge event, there are many poignant moments, such as Craig not being able to accompany Rose to the Charge as they have for every previous race. The underlying awareness that there is not much time left for the couple is heart-rending.
Speaking of recurring characters, this particular novel brings Thabiti’s sister, Pearl, back into the limelight with her ongoing recovery from incidents in book 1. I loved that she is making a comeback to the storyline. Also, we get a more intimate look into Chloe’s life this time as she and Rose become more comfortable and known to each other. Another of my favorite recurring characters is Sam Mwamba. I appreciated that he and Rose shared a moment and a knowing look regarding the fact that murder seems to follow them around.
Kenya’s exotic and unusual setting remains fresh, interesting, and inviting. There is always so much to learn during the course of the mystery about the country, its people, and history. Rhino Charge features characters that have immigrated to Kenya from India joining a large population of others there that have retained their culture and Hindu faith. This entry was a true page-turner while relaxing and sipping on my own cup of Kericho Gold tea.
I recommend this book and the entire series to cozy mystery readers, particularly those who enjoy a more mature and human-nature-savvy sleuth like Mama Rose. The Kenyan setting may especially appeal to readers who liked The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith.
I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author.