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The Delta

The Delta

by Tony Park

Assassin-for-hire Sonja Kurtz is on the run. Kurtz, an ex-soldier turned mercenary, is given a high profile job—to kill the president of Zimbabwe. But it's a set up, the assassination attempt fails, Kurtz has been burned and her exfiltration plan are in ruins. Kurtz now heads for her only place of refuge, the Okavango Delta in the heart of Botswana. Determined


Assassin-for-hire Sonja Kurtz is on the run. Kurtz, an ex-soldier turned mercenary, is given a high profile job—to kill the president of Zimbabwe. But it's a set up, the assassination attempt fails, Kurtz has been burned and her exfiltration plan are in ruins. Kurtz now heads for her only place of refuge, the Okavango Delta in the heart of Botswana. Determined to lay low and take it easy, Sonja discovers that her beloved Delta is on the brink of destruction. In a bid to halt a project that would destroy the Delta's fragile network of swamps and waterways, she is recruited as an ‘eco-commando.'

Soon she finds herself caught in a web of intrigue as deadly as the one she left behind her. Caught between her ex-lover Sterling, Martin Steele, her mercenary commander, and a TV wildlife documentary host ‘Coyote' Sam Chapman who blunders out of the bush in a reality show gone wrong. Instead of escaping her violent past, Sonja is now surrounded by men who are relying on her killer instincts. Having come to peace, she finds herself in the midst of a deadly war… and it is not only the survival of the Delta that is at stake.

The Delta is a white-knuckle thriller from international bestseller Tony Park, the new "master of adventure," in his North American debut.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Australian author Park (Safari) makes his U.S. debut with this ambitious African thriller about plans to bomb an enormous dam in Botswana. Mercenary Sonja Kurtz, an ex-British soldier with a troubled personal past, agrees to carry out the job on behalf of a shadowy assortment of Western tourism operators who make a healthy living from the region’s swamps and waterways. Soon, Kurtz finds herself trapped amid competing personal and professional interests, including those of her boss, the duplicitous Martin Steele; former lover and resort owner Sterling Smith; and the ruggedly handsome Sam Chapman, host of an American TV wildlife show that’s filming in the area. Kurtz’s conflicted feelings about the job complicate matters further, as does her respect for Africa’s traditions and pristine beauty. Park excels at capturing the wilds of the continent, as well as its political and commercial pressures. The arrogant, self-righteous Kurtz is often hard to root for, yet she’s strangely sympathetic. Agent: Isobel Dixon, Blake Friedmann Literary Agency (U.K.). (Oct.)
From the Publisher

“An all-action, old-fashioned, full-on boy's own romp from an author who is starting to challenge the veteran Wilbur Smith for the title of ‘master of the African thriller'… Break-neck in pace, with narrow escapes from death on every page, its charm is infectious.” —Daily Mail (UK)

“Action-packed… love, betrayal, and myriad plot twists keep this story moving a mile a minute. Southern Africa is brought to life with detailed description of people, animals, and the wild yet beautiful landscape….A thriller that will make your heart race as you find yourself immersed in the struggle for survival.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“A fast-moving thriller starring a female mercenary in a great setting, along with violence and a dollop of sex… Don't expect damsels in distress in this novel. Do expect a thrill ride that won't disappoint.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“[An] ambitious African thriller... Park excels at capturing the wilds of the continent, as well as its political and commercial pressures.” —Publishers Weekly

Library Journal
★ 09/15/2014
Park, a prolific Australian author, makes his North American debut with this action-packed thriller. After escaping death during a failed assassination attempt, mercenary Sonja Kurtz is hired by a group of African safari lodge operators to blow up a dam that is contributing to the destruction of the Okavango Delta in Botswana. The dam is cutting off the water flow to the Delta, killing plants and drying up water sources needed to sustain wildlife. Politics, a nature documentary film star, Sonja's surly daughter, love, betrayal, and myriad plot twists keep this story moving a mile a minute. Southern Africa is brought to life with detailed description of people, animals, and the wild yet beautiful landscape. Sonja struggles with her past, the moral implications of her actions, and the desire for an inconvenient romance as she applies her razor-sharp thinking and survival skills to bring the novel to a satisfying ending. VERDICT Park (The Hunter) has written a thriller that will make your heart race as you find yourself immersed in the struggle for survival. With a strong sense of place and a furious pace, this novel will appeal to those who enjoy Richard North Patterson's novels.—Terry Lucas, Rogers Memorial Lib., Southampton, NY
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-08-14
A fast-moving thriller starring a female mercenary in a great setting, along with violence and a dollop of sex. Sonja Kurtz attacks a convoy said to be carrying the president of Zimbabwe. It's nothing personal. She kills for a living, and it's a prelude to the main story: a plot to destroy a dam blocking water from the Okavango Delta in Botswana. The surname Kurtz looks like Park's homage to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, although any similarity between the two characters ends there. Sonja doesn't sit around moaning "The horror! The horror!" but is a steel-tough, compelling protagonist from beginning to her possible end. In one scene, "[s]he held the dead man's cigarette between her blood-stained fingers and closed her eyes as she inhaled deeply." Earlier, she met up with a wildlife documentary crew and a potential love interest in TV personality Coyote Sam, who is more plausible than his name suggests. Add an ex-lover, an estranged father, a daughter of dubious paternity, some AK-47s and RPGs, and a dam that will either improve people's lives or ruin the environment, and you have the elements of an engrossing story. During a lull in the action, Sonja ponders why she didn't become "a doctor or a vet or a nurse or even a bloody secretary." Instead, "[h]er drive, her ambition, her past and her pride had taken her to war and taught her to kill." And she might well ponder why villains never learn to stop explaining themselves at length before pulling the damn trigger. In Africa, she sees a place of great sorrow where people have given up crying. Yet it's also a place of great beauty, as evidenced by the author's rich and authentic detail. Clearly, Park knows and loves Africa. Don't expect damsels in distress in this novel. Do expect a thrill ride that won't disappoint.

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Quercus Publishing Plc
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The Delta

By Tony Park

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2010 Tony Park
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-5890-9


Africa was dying of thirst before her eyes. To keep herself awake, and alert, she watched the birds and the trees through the scope, but it was a depressing view.

Ficus sycamorus, the sycamore fig, on the bank of the river, still green, defying the drought, but for how much longer? It was a watercourse in name only, now nothing more than a sandy red scar through the tanned, dry skin of Africa.

Ziziphus ... Ziziphus what? She couldn't remember the second part of the Latin name. Buffalo thorn, in English, but she knew it better by the Afrikaans nickname, wag-'n-bietje. It was called wait-a-bit because that's what you had to do if you brushed against it: stop and take your time to free yourself of its wicked little barbs. They got under your skin and poisoned you—like Africa. Ziziphus mucronata, that was it. Stirling would have been proud of her, although Stirling knew all the Latin names by heart.

She blinked away a drop of sweat, not wanting to risk even the movement of her hand to wipe it from her eyes. The sun was overhead and while the net covering the hide gave her some shade and concealment, it didn't keep the heat out. So well hidden was she that the cheetah hadn't seen her.

The sighting had made her heart pound. It was rare enough to see one in the Moremi Game Reserve or a national park. Who would have thought that in the barren farmlands of Zimbabwe she would see one slinking along the dirt verge of the main road at five in the morning? The cat's coat had shone like spun gold in the first low rays of the sun, the black dots seemed to dazzle her as she studied the cheetah through her binoculars. Later, once the sun was completely up, she saw a pair of steenbok and wondered if the cheetah had been on their scent. Why not cheetahs? she asked herself now that she thought about it. The lands as far as she could see, from left to right and out to the far horizon, had once hosted crops and cattle but were now returning to bush, the scrubby wag-'n-bietje reclaiming the earth and providing food and shade for browsers like the little steenbok antelope that took their name from the brick-red color of their coat.

Cheetah struggled in national parks and game reserves, Stirling had told her long ago as they spent an hour one school holiday watching a mother and four cubs perched on a termite mound at the far end of the Xakanaxa air strip.

"Ironically," he had begun, lapsing easily into the David Attenborough accent that always made her smile, "the cheetah is most at risk within the protection of a reserve. Here she will face danger at every turn; her life, and the lives of her cubs under daily threat from hyena, lion and wild dog."

It stood to reason, then, that cheetah could fare well in a place like Zimbabwe. With the bushveld reclaiming the commercial farms that had been abandoned by the so-called veterans of the liberation war who had taken them from the white farmers years ago, wildlife was slowly coming back. It was unlikely there would be lion in the area—perhaps the odd hyena—so if a cheetah had four cubs then all would have a good chance of survival. How odd, she thought, that something good might come of such a tragic chain of events.

The cheetah hadn't noticed her, although she'd been no more than two hundred meters from the road's edge. That was good. The cat had a sprinter's build, with long skinny legs, narrow hips and a deep chest that held the heart of a hunter. Its long tail twitched and swished as it walked along the gravel verge of the road. Here and there it stopped to scent-mark its territory, with a squirt of urine against a tree or kilometer peg. She watched it for half an hour until it crossed the bridge and carried on over the rise.

"Good luck," she had whispered. One predator to another.

Sonja lowered the binoculars and slowly rolled her shoulders, keeping the blood flowing with an economy of movement. She turned her feet, one at a time, and clenched and unclenched first her calves and then her thighs. She had prepared and moved into the hide after dark, at nine the previous evening, and once she was in place she had moved from the spot where she now lay only twice, to pee. Glancing down at her watch she saw it had been fourteen hours. She would wait as long as it took.

Three days was the longest time she had lain in a hide, but that was in training. It had been cold. No, bloody freezing. And wet, the misting rain collecting on the plastic leaves of the camouflage net and dribbling down on her head, to run down the back of her neck. Three days of peeing in the same patch of dirt and crapping in a plastic bag and wrapping it in tinfoil. They had never let her do it for real, in the field, which had angered her and the other two girls on the course.

Kigelia Africana. Sausage tree. Stirling would have said she was picking the easy ones, which was true. She heard a hum.

She swung the binoculars slowly westward. She had sited herself on the north side of a bend in the main road that ran between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls, facing southward, so that the sun would pass behind her on its arching journey from dawn to dusk. It meant she wouldn't be staring into the sun, and there was less risk of the light reflecting from her powerful Steiner binoculars, or the scope.

She saw the car coming from the west and took a breath, stilling herself. It was only the fourth vehicle she had seen all morning. Crippling fuel shortages did wonders for traffic control. It was moving fast, down the middle of the road, its tires straddling the broken white center line. That was a good sign.

As she focused she saw it was a Mercedes; white, with blue, gold and yellow strips running from stem to stern. Zimbabwe Republic Police. Its lights were flashing and she reckoned, judging by the seconds she counted from the first kilometer peg to the second, that it was clocking about a hundred and fifty.

He was coming.

"The convoy," Martin had said during the briefing, "is always preceded by two speeding police cars, who maintain visual distance between each other. Their job is to warn oncoming motorists to get off the road. Everyone who lives in Zimbabwe knows that when they see a patrol car screaming down the middle of the highway they must pull over immediately."

"What about tourists, or people who don't know what's going on?" Sonja had asked him.

Martin had nodded, dragged quickly on his Benson and Hedges and exhaled. Sonja's mouth had almost watered from the craving. "If the second car sees an oncoming vehicle still on the road he flashes his lights and drives toward it, forcing it off the road. If all is clear—and other vehicles have pulled over—he lets the next car in the convoy know that it is safe to proceed."

The police car flashed past her and she looked west again. The second police car was traveling at the same speed and she focused through its windscreen. She caught a glimpse of the occupants, one smiling and nodding at something the other had said.

Her hand moved to the transmitter and she flicked the safety cover off the switch. The second car passed over the low concrete bridge, over the dry riverbed, and she imagined the stories the officers inside the vehicle—both vehicles—would tell for the rest of their lives about how narrowly they had avoided death.

She knew she shouldn't have looked at the men's faces. To personalize the targets—to give them an imagined identity—did no good at all. It was easier when they were further away, but the nature of this job meant she had to get close enough to see the men's faces, and to read them.

Sonja heard the combined drone of more engines and the whine of rubber on hot tar. The noise reminded her of an approaching swarm of African bees. She counted the vehicles with her naked eye as they came into sight. There was another police pursuit car; then three limousines—two black Mercs and a same-colored BMW, all armor-plated according to Martin. Behind the limos was yet another cop car, followed by an army bakkie, a pick-up with a section of ten paratroopers in the open back. They would be armed, she knew already, with a mix of AK-47s, two RPD belt-fed light machine-guns, and at least one RPG 7 anti-armor weapon. Last in the convoy was a military ambulance.

Sonja pushed a button and the concrete bridge erupted in a cloud of smoke and debris. A split second later she heard the boom, and then felt the shock wave wash over her. The dry yellow grass around her was smoothed for an instant by the hot wind.

Rubber screamed at her from the valley, but at the speed he was traveling there was no way the policeman in the third Mercedes Kompressor could stop in time. The car shot into the smoking void where the bridge had once been and nosedived into the sand.

Twisting, buckling metal screeched in Sonja's ears, but she blocked out the sights and sounds as she moved her cramped body into a sitting position. She hefted the Javelin antitank guided-missile launcher onto her shoulder, pressed her eyes to the rubber cups and stared at the screen of the Command Launch Unit, or CLU for short. The drivers of the three limousines had all managed to avoid following the police car into the riverbed or rear-ending each other and were stopped at odd angles on the road at the end of snaking black skids of burned rubber. Gearboxes whined and a horn hooted as the drivers tried to straighten and reverse. Sonja shifted herself until the army bakkie was centered and bracketed by the aiming marks on the screen. The vehicle's driver had slewed to the left to avoid slamming into the rear of the police car in front. He was stopped now and the stunned soldiers in the back were rousing themselves. A couple had already jumped clear and were dropping to their bellies, taking up firing positions. The men seemed better trained than Martin had briefed her to expect. Using her thumb Sonja toggled the switch until "top attack" was illuminated. She braced herself for the launch and squeezed the trigger.

There was a loud click as the first of the projectile's two motors ignited. The missile left its tube like a thoroughbred leaping from its gate. Sonja's body was rocked and she squeezed her eyes shut to avoid being blindsighted by the ignition of the second-stage motor. The tail of the missile, she knew, would be dropping slowly, about five meters in front of her, but the whoosh she heard told her the main motor had just kicked in. When she opened her eyes again she saw a flying comet of furiously burning exhaust as the missile arced high into the sky then began its downward trajectory.

Javelin is a fire-and-forget weapon and she knew the missile would chase the army pick-up, even if the driver had restarted his engine and begun moving again. She didn't stop to watch the hit—there was no time. She was already removing the spent missile tube and fitting another to the CLU. As she locked it in place she heard the detonation of the warhead. When she surveyed the scene again it was through the monochrome of the screen. It helped, she knew, not to be able to see the blood as she selected another target.

She only had three missiles. Her plan had been to take out the bakkie so that its burning wreck would bottle the limousines between it and the destroyed bridge. The road was sunk in an earthen cutting at this point, which was why she had chosen it, so that none of the cars could turn off and escape into the thornbush-studded grasslands. But, by training, instinct or accident, the bakkie driver had pulled onto the verge, leaving enough room for the vehicles in front to reverse back past it.

The bakkie was ablaze. She moved the sights to the ambulance, which had been lagging a few hundred meters behind the convoy. She had wanted to spare it, so as to at least give a chance of survival to the soldiers and policemen she had already hurt. However, it now looked as though she would have to take it out.

On the screen she saw another vehicle moving. The police car that had been in front of the bakkie was reversing at speed. The noise had come when the driver pulled on his handbrake and swung his wheel. It was a classic counter-ambush move and well executed. The police driver was getting the hell out of there. That was odd.

The policeman floored his accelerator and headed west, but smoke from the burning pick-up was drifting across the road. As he swerved around the wreck he plowed head on into the ambulance. Sonja winced at the sound of the impact. The cop's eagerness to run away had done her job for her.

She shifted the CLU to the left and surveyed the three limousines.

Pop, pop, pop. She heard the tinny reports of AK-47s firing, though she felt no air displaced around her. Way off to her left was a tall knob-thorn tree, Acacia nigrescens, and to her right were the crumbling remains of a mud hut, which she imagined might once have been occupied by party faithful or war veterans who had staked a claim on the overgrown farm where she hid. She had dug her hide in open country, using the long golden grass to conceal herself from the road, and a camouflage net laced with the same to hide her from the air in the unlikely event there was a helicopter shadowing the convoy. Sonja banked on the fact that the paratroopers would direct their fire at the tree or the ruins, as these were the most obvious firing positions.

However, when one of the RPDs next opened up, the machine-gunner randomly raked the open ground, rather than aiming for specific landmarks.

Geysers of red earth erupted in front of her, but she maintained her watch on the limousines. A door opened in the lead Merc and a driver in a suit got out and ran from the car, away from her, scrambling up over the earthen bank at the side of the road to disappear into the grass and scrubby thorn trees beyond. Nothing would make him wait a bit.

The second Mercedes began to reverse and, despite the blaring warning of a horn from the BMW, rammed the car behind him. The two drivers then got out and after a moment's yelling they followed the lead of the first man and abandoned their vehicles.

"Shit," Sonja said.

She scanned right again. An officer was standing, with stupid courage, in the open, shouting orders at his men. One of the RPD gunners was climbing up the embankment, moving in her direction. A fire team of three men ran down the road, away from the carnage, and then crossed. They were going to try and outflank her.

There was no other movement from the three limos. She put the Javelin down and snatched up her binoculars. Although the windows were all heavily tinted, the drivers' doors of all three cars were open. She took a split second to scan each of them.


Sonja took an M26 fragmentation grenade from one of the pouches on the front of her combat vest and pulled the pin. She lifted the remaining spare Javelin tube and laid the grenade underneath it, the weight of the missile keeping the grenade lever down. It was a crude booby trap but she hoped some inexperienced soldier would be unable to resist the temptation of lifting the expensive anti-armor weapon. Awkwardly, she slung the third missile and CLU over her shoulder and snatched up her M4 assault rifle. She crawled through the long grass as machine-gun bullets cracked and thumped through the air over her head.

She had sited her hide just below the brow of a hill and once over the other side she half ran, half stumbled down the grassy slope. At the bottom of the shallow valley, on the far side of the same dry river the bridge had crossed before she blew it up, was her Land Rover, parked under a sausage tree. The vehicle was an old sandy-colored 110, the precursor of the Defender. It was rated one of the best offroad vehicles in the world and she prayed it lived up to its reputation.

Sonja opened the driver's door, reached in and started the engine.

* * *

Major Kenneth Sibanda reached forward and tapped the pilot of the Russian-made Hind helicopter gunship on the shoulder. "Down there, Land Rover!"

The smoke from the burning bakkie had been a beacon to them and Sibanda had radioed to the lead aircraft of the three Alouettes that he was going to investigate.

After a pause, the pilot of the Alouette radioed back, "The Comrade President wishes you good luck, and good hunting."


Excerpted from The Delta by Tony Park. Copyright © 2010 Tony Park. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

A #1 bestseller in Australia, TONY PARK is the author of ten novels and several works of nonfiction. Born and raised in Sydney, he is a major in the Australian Army Reserve and served in Afghanistan . He divides his time between Sydney and southern Africa, where he researches and writes his novels.

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