Gone to Ground, a review by Joanna

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Gone to Ground

Bronwyn Hall

288 pages

Published Aug 3rd, 2022

🌍🌍🌍🌍🌍

Better Run Through the Jungle, Run through the jungle, Whoa don’t look back to see… 🎶 This was a fantastic action thriller about a brave if naive Australian surgeon, who finds herself stuck deep in the rainforest of the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) when a UN medical mission goes awry. I was invited to read this by the publisher – the premise, medical aspects and rave reviews already posted convinced me to give it a go – and I quickly realised this would be  another 5 star read for me!

Rachel Forrester is working as the only doctor in a remote clinic administering vaccines and basic healthcare to jungle communities when a seriously wounded Canadian soldier is brought in by his team mates. Attacks by hostile militia forces mean they have to evacuate, but the helicopter only has room for three, and Rachel opts to send her injured patients, and escape on foot with the special forces unit. As they trudge warily towards the nearest town, they discover a sinister mining operation is being conducted out of sight of the authorities, using stolen children as slave labour – a secret the operators will kill to protect.
It’s hard to believe this was written by a debut author – it’s a wonderfully immersive story with just enough descriptive detail to feel like you’re in deepest Africa with scary creepy-crawlies behind every tree and gun-toting rebels round every corner. It’s all told from Rachel’s first person past POV and you’re taken straight into the action with minimal exposition, which I liked. There is a romance sub-plot but it doesn’t detract from the story, and the main characters are appealing enough to get away with it. Rachel is a skilled doctor, not a fighter, but it turns out growing up on an Aussie farm has given her some useful skills, and I loved the evolving dynamics as she bonds with the team. The medical aspects were also completely convincing.
The plot denouement wasn’t a surprise – I don’t think it’s meant to be, and I actually appreciated not being stung by an unexpected twist for once. There’s no graphic violence and while child exploitation is mentioned, and brutality towards women implied, we don’t witness it, so I don’t think this needs any content warnings unless you’re very scared of spiders or fond of pigs. The only thing I didn’t like was the tag-line on the cover “Hunted. Alone. Afraid.” which is misleading, as Rachel is not any of these things (unless you count her arachnophobia) – but I expect that’s the publisher not the author’s input. Regardless, this was a highly enjoyable fast-paced read from a new author to watch. Thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins Australia for the ARC.

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