What is it about?
Michael Davidson, an investigative journalist, disappears in South Africa while researching a story for National Geographic about rhino poaching and rhino-horn smuggling. After weeks without any news from him, his friend Crystal Nguyen fears the worst. Being a journalist herself, she decides to go to South Africa to finish his story, and, by doing that, to figure out what happened to Michael.
I liked Shoot the Bastards, it's well written and has with Crystal Nguyen an interesting, albeit sometimes a bit naive, main character. The behavior of the bad guys, however, didn't always make sense to me. Unusual are the main locations: South Africa and, to a lesser degree, Vietnam. Countries that rarely appear in the books I read. The authors – there are two people behind the pseudonym of "Michael Stanley" – do a good job describing the issue of rhino poaching and rhino-horn smuggling.
Quotes from the book
He'd done a stint covering the war in Afghanistan and, while he hadn't enjoyed the danger, there'd been a peculiar exhilaration in knowing that every step you took might be your last.
[...] something many-legged was crawling on his arm.
"Only has four bullets before you have to reload. Even if you have to shoot, it's unlikely that you'll fire more than once or twice – either he'll be dead or you will."
"Couldn't you tell them to put their hands up instead of just shooting them?" - "We tried that at the beginning. One of my friends was killed when they opened up with an AK-47. If they see us, they don't hesitate. They shoot to kill. So now we do the same. We shoot the bastards!"
"Did you have to torture him and leave him to be eaten alive?" - "He was going to die anyway."
"I get it why poachers are willing to take the risk. [...] They can earn a lifetime of income from a couple of horns." He pointed to the others sitting around the fire. "But we're working at the bottom of the food chain. We don't get anything extra when we catch or kill a poacher, even though our lives are in danger. We do it so rhinos don't disappear from the planet."
"Is it right to torture and kill people to save animals? Is it worth it to fight for them like that?"
"Poachers take on the job for money. They don't care about the animals. Most of them can't get work. They can't make a living, can't support their families. What they get paid for one rhino horn will support their families for several years. Of course, they're willing to take the risk. And you probably would, too, if you were desperate like they are."
"It's not a question of right or wrong. The poachers see it as a matter of survival. Their own."
"It's bad enough I've killed someone. And now you want to turn me into a thief?"
"I don't know what you are up to, but everywhere you go, something bad happens."