Wilbur Smith once told me that adventure novels set in South America don't really work. Well, it always takes a young pup to prove an old dog wrong. Here comes Edward Docx, author of the acclaimed Self Help, to do just that, and fabulously well. Even readers not in love with that genre [the thriller] will enjoy the pleasures of Docx's writing . . . a novel which is as full of intellectual provocations as it is of suspenseful turns
Docx is a master of disquiet, and brilliantly captures the bewildering effect of the forest. He’s produced a memorable cast . . . all portrayed with great artistry and imagination. Immensely intelligent.
Docx’s real skill lies in the storytelling. There is a constant sense that more is occurring in this strange place than Forle is telling us, so that when he finally does explode, it’s shocking and satisfying. It’s an unusually intelligent thriller that refuses to take sides. One suspects Conrad would have rather enjoyed it.
Written in punchy action-packed paragraphs.
In twinning a zoologist protagonist with gripping drama, Docx is in respected company – with William Boyd for example, and Jill Dawson…Dox dexterously conjures up the drought-stricken jungle: the suffocating, soupy atmosphere, fascinating wildlife and startling beauty…The escalating threat and way in which a history of exploitation, hypocrisy and corruption breeds further immorality and violence are reminiscent of novels by J. M. Coetzee or Damon Galgut. This poisoned Eden throbs with intensity, and delivers a gut punch that leaves you reeling.
Set deep in the South American jungle, Edward Docx’s brooding novel, with its Conradian echoes, pits western “progress” against nature…the action sequences are convincingly adrenaline-soaked…while, crucially, the personality of the narrator protagonist remains opaque behind his beautifully crafted, vaguely antique prose. At the end of The Devil’s Garden, it is the forest itself, in all its teeming, ant-infested gloominess, that remains most memorable.
A confident and compelling novel, which also takes in intrigue and adventure, terror and torture, drugs and booze…It’s a riveting Conradian page-turner.
A charged and compelling fiction that moves from uncomfortable stand off to murderous pursuit while tilting at some of the cherished liberal ideas of Western civilisation.
The Devil’s Garden reads like a thriller but has fascinating moral and political dimensions. The description of the jungle is horrific, making this a great contender as a Heart of Darkness for the 21st century.
Written with the economy of a political thriller, Docx relates how Forle – a man with a difficult past – is gradually drawn into a small scale conflict…Reminiscent of Damon Galgut and Brian Moore, Docx conjures up an amoral universe inhabited by chancers and damaged loners…the spell of the rainforest is hard to resist: from the constant insect trill “like some great tinnitus” to skies that change from “wan and smoky blue” to “peach and pale vermilion”.
A tumultuous journey of danger and suspense…Docx allows his writing to feed off of our natural fears and for much of the novel you get the feelin that the world is closing in around you. There’s plenty here to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Human naure is examined under Edward Docx’s microscope just as carefully aqs are the ants, and the tension for this reader felt initially understated and on a par with the seemingly turn-a-blind-eye approach of Dr Forle…It’s an object lesson in how to find yourself unwittingly pitched in the middle of a warzone without really trying.
Starting with the ominous sentence “There is only one way out: the river”, The Devil’s Garden anatomizes a deadly clash between the ruthless agents of big business and politics and a hapless group of scientists and native Indians in a contemporary Amazonian-style setting. Narrated by Dr Forle, who is researching jungle ants, the novel makes valuable points about the dark side of mankind, as well as the desperation needed to stay alive.