In a vast African landscape four teenagers and a journalist vanish without a trace. Where have they gone? And has there been foul play?
From School Library Journal
Grade 6–9—When three students, their native friend, and a journalist disappear from their archaeological camp in the African wilderness, investigators begin to learn strange things about their visiting school group. Their head teacher is surprisingly uninterested in finding them, and many of the students seem to be keeping secrets. Joe, one of the missing boys, is soon found wandering in a place where he could not possibly be and with no memory of what happened. As he recovers, he works with the investigators and the journalist's young sister to retrace the steps of those still missing and find them before they die of exposure. As they uncover clues, they slowly piece together what went so horribly wrong at Chomlaya camp. As the tension and desperation build, the investigators also learn whom they can trust and who might be hindering their investigation. This is a suspenseful mystery with a little bit of the supernatural to it. Birch does a fine job of describing the mysticism of this fictional locale where human life began and integrating it into the story.—Stephanie L. Petruso, Anne Arundel County Public Library, Odenton, MD
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Anthropology and global awareness drive this mystery set in a remote part of Africa. Three British teens and a journalist documenting their school’s expedition go missing from their camp at the base of Chomlaya, a mountain range in the African desert near an archaeological dig. One of the missing teens turns up on the far side of the mountain range, suffering not from sunburn but from amnesia. All sorts of questions are raised, and it’s up to Ella, the orphaned younger sister of the missing journalist, and Inspector Murothi, a calm, compassionate, and savvy African detective, to puzzle out what is really happening at the camp and find the missing people before the harsh desert environment destroys them. Birch addresses the knotty questions of race and class prejudice and even mentions the classic book (and film) depicting a similar situation: Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967). Interviews, journal entries, newspaper articles, maps, and iconic artwork enhance the text and provide fullness to the world Birch presents. Grades 6-9. --Debbie Carton
Creation date: 2012-10-08