Book review: The Elephant Thief by Jane Kerr

Frankly, there only needs to be the tiniest of references to elephants in the background story of a minor character in a book and I’m in, so there was never any way that I was leaving the bookshop without Jane Kerr’s book.

Danny is an orphan, forced to work for one of Edinburgh’s most terrifying gang leaders to survive. Until he finds himself at the centre of a media storm and a bet that sees him desperately trying to get fully grown Indian elephant, Maharajah, from Edinburgh to Manchester in one week on foot. The high stakes mean that there are those that want him fail as much as he wants to succeed, and Danny must discover the source of sabotage so he can win the bet, and his freedom whilst keeping Maharajah safe.

The plot is gripping from the start, whirling you through the less savoury aspects of late 1800’s Edinburgh through the exotic circus animals at the bustling auction, and on to the spectacle of the journey. Revelations about Danny’s past are interweaved with plot twists and turns that keep you hooked and totally unsure what will happen next. There is very little that you could call predictable here.

The characters are multi-dimensional and believable. There are straight up baddies with no redeeming qualities, good baddies that do bad things for good reasons, bad goodies that do mostly good things with a smattering of stupid decisions, and, to complete the spectrum, just the one solid goodie who couldn’t put a foot wrong if they tried (the Queen – and quite right too!). This complexity of character had me so invested that I wanted to step into the book and put a stop to terrible decisions at times. I was willing Danny and the gang over the finish line, desperately hoping against the terrible consequences of losing the bet.

The Elephant Thief is an absolute must read. And give yourself a big pat on the back if you can correctly spot the unexpected baddie before they are revealed!


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