Have you ever thought about trekking across some of the remotest parts of the planets surface? What about the Amazonian Rainforest? This must be a place full of adventure and danger, where walking a couple of miles may take you all day. For all the potential that somewhere like the Amazon has in story telling I have never read a book based here. It was with some surprise then that I found a classic novel by Jack Higgins that did just this. Normally his books are set during the World Wars or in the present day climate of terror. However, before Higgins used to write the same novel over and over again he did actually used to be a good author of fun action novels. Can Higgins classic collection truly deserve the title of classic?
Neil Mallory is working as a courier in 1930s Brazil moving mail and machine parts around the Amazonian rain forest in his small plane. One day his plane crashes and he is only saved by the bravery of the enigmatic Captain Hannah. It seems that Hannah can give Mallory a new job and a new plane, but it will mean travelling into the darkest parts of the forest and coming up against the indigenous peoples. Mallorys friendship with the Captain becomes increasingly strained but they must work together when a monastery full of nuns is attacked by a local tribe deep in the Rainforest. Can Mallory prove his bravery and discover why he is so suspicious of Captain Hannah?
Written in 1971 this Jack Higgins novel is amongst his best. I would not say that it is a classic book of all time but for the author it probably does deserve the moniker. The Last Place God Made is Higgins at his best; creating solid characters and putting them in exciting situations. I was really impressed how he was able to keep the high standard of action throughout whilst making the storyline somewhat believable. During the 1930s very little would have been known about the indigenous peoples of the Amazon so this book does not need to make up any false dangers.
The characters of Mallory and Hannah are pretty one dimensional, but still fun to read about. Mallory is your typical Higgins hero who has a stubborn streak and a passion for justice. He is slightly more complex in that he has an interest in saving the native tribes. This leads to one of the issues that I had with this book. Mallory tries to paint the tribes as a decent people who are put upon by the modern world. Higgins then proceeds to have a tribe attack and murder dozens of people. It is like Higgins could not decide whether the tribe were meant to be bad guys or not. It did not damage the book in any significant way but made the decisions Mallory acted on questionable at best.
The Last Place God Made is one of the best written and strongest novels that I have read by Higgins and proves that he had his hay day during the 60s and 70s. That is not to say that the book is perfect. Once again Higgins is somewhat chauvinistic and his characters act too much as manly men. However, if you are reading this book you probably have a clear idea what to expect. Also the fact that modern man is encroaching on the Amazonian Rainforest is treated with unusual sympathy for Higgins, but this is then undermined by his insistence of having the tribes try to kill everyone! Overall, I thought this was a fun little book that was set in a time and place that made it more interesting than your average generic action thriller. If only Jack Higgins were still this good.
Author: Jack Higgins
Price: amazon uk (second hand) from £0.01 + p&p!