By the Book: ‘Atone for the Ivory Cloud’ by Geoffrey Wells

"Atone for the Ivory Cloud" by Geoffrey Wells
"Atone for the Ivory Cloud" by Geoffrey Wells, Worradirek Muksab/123RF

In a novel that has suspense, a love story and a valuable message, Southold’s Geoffrey Wells creates a world that goes far beyond the typical thriller. Atone for the Ivory Cloud involves an international cybercrime network, a composer whose life is turned upside down, and a look into the illegal ivory trade that causes almost total extinction among the elephant population in Tanzania. Though the novel is difficult to follow at points, and a bit unbelievable in its premise, Wells shines a light on a relevant and timely issue.

Wells blends his own experiences of living in New York and Africa, where he spent his childhood. The novel begins in a setting familiar to many, the busy streets of New York City. This is where the main characters, Alison and Sipho, are introduced. Alison is a composer, whose website is hacked by criminals trafficking blood ivory. This leads her to Tanzania with Sipho, a street vendor who’s a native of the area. They are forced to go undercover in order to catch the traffickers. Alison is an interesting, strong character, and is easy to root for. Sipho is a helpful companion in Alison’s journey, and serves to counterbalance her with his knowledge of Tanzania and clever, witty dialogue.

The novel spends a great deal of time describing the slaughter of elephants, and the impact that their destruction has beyond that of their individual lives. This is where Wells’ true strength lies in the novel, and it gives it a purpose beyond that of a thriller. Wells approaches the matter in a way that makes you stop and think, while also being entertained. Clearly a passionate conservationist, Wells brings to life these issues and helps the reader to see them as a worldwide issue that needs to be addressed.

Through the suspense and unexpected turns this novel takes, music is woven beautifully into the narrative. Once the conflict has subsided, and the end of the novel nears, the language used becomes almost lyrical, which is a welcome change from the matter-of-fact style of the rest of the novel. This is also when the love story between Sipho and Alison strengthens. Although their relationship seemed a bit forced at the beginning, the last few chapters serve to create a romance that is realistic and heartfelt.

Although Wells’ imagination has to be admired, the idea that the CIA would force two inexperienced civilians to trap the leaders of an international cybercrime network is unbelievable. If Alison had perhaps been of a different occupation, or had a past working for the criminal justice system, maybe then it would have clarified the questions that arose when trying to understand how this situation could come to be. There’s also cyber and tech lingo that’s not explained, and that makes it even more difficult to follow the story to its completion. It’s clear that Wells knows what he’s talking about, but he assumes that the reader is just as knowledgeable as he is.

Atone for the Ivory Cloud is a great read if you are passionate about wildlife preservation and know something about cybercrime. Then you will find it entertaining and educational, with some truly beautiful and lyrical language woven into the action-packed plot. Sure to create impassioned activists, this novel is much more than a thriller.

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