Djibouti by Elmore Leonard

In this hyper-contemporary novel set off the Horn of Africa, documentary filmmaker Dara Barr and her cameraman and friend Xavier LeBo get up close and personal with Somali pirates.  Dara’s obvious sympathy with the pirates coupled with their carefree attitude allows the duo access to the pirates’ activities.  Toss in a wealthy and well-connected Texas businessman and his beautiful and brainy girlfriend, add an American Muslim turned terrorist, and you have an over-the-top cast of characters.

The book is a steady read, but far from a page-turner.  The story is primarily told as a series of recent flashbacks as Dara and Xavier edit the footage they’ve recorded and try to determine an angle for the film.  Most of the characters are well-constructed and likable – there’s really only one villain – but I just didn’t buy the sexual tension between the 36 year-old Dara and the 72 year-old Xavier.  I found the ending disappointing, asking myself, “Why didn’t they (Dara and Xavier) anticipate this?!?”.

In spite of a few weaknesses in the pace, characters, and plot, I would still recommend the book to anyone interested in current world politics, environmental justice, or the ethics of  stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

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