Shadows along the Zambesi. The author Diana M. Hawkins could hardly have chosen a more fitting name. In Shadows hide the unknown; the dark the dangerous, and in her novel she exposes some of what is clothed in darkness. From greed and violence, brutal murders, farm seizures and corruption at the highest levels. Diana M. Hawkins’ knowledge and research is as impressive as it is accurate. Like Diana, I grew up in Zimbabwe. The opening chapter was shockingly close to the bone. I had to take a break from reading it, then I couldn’t put the book down.

The main characters are dedicated to protecting wildlife, especially the magnificent elephant herds. Before long, you will share their hopes, fears, anger, tears and love. Though a work of fiction, the wild bush, the unscrupulous poachers, the plight of the elephant families, the courageous fight to save them is very real and ongoing in Zimbabwe today. Tears are inevitable, of both sadness and joy. If you aren’t an elephant lover when you start reading, you will be when you have read this inspiring book.

Gail Unger posted on on November 25, 2019 (rated 5 stars).


A rip-roaring adventure that will keep you on the edge of your seat … I love this book so much that I have bought additional copies to give to family members as gifts. Diana M. Hawkins, who was born in Rhodesia and still has family in Zimbabwe, writes from personal experience. Her characters feel as if they were friends writing to you from the continent of Africa.

After reading this book in hard copy and again in digital, I knew that I needed to take the time to recommend it to others. Diana M. Hawkins must've done a great deal of research about the wildlife, who are also featured as characters in this book. I began reading a chapter about the elephant family the American character was tracking to the granddaughter of one of my friends. She grabbed my Kindle and started to read the whole book from the beginning. She is a bright 10 years old and she finally gave me back my Kindle.

The book begins with a horrific incident that is replaying in South Africa in the present. It follows people who want to save wildlife and the people of Zimbabwe. Equal time is given to poachers, traffickers selling to Chinese businesses, and corrupt officials in Zimbabwe. It's a rip roaring adventure that will keep you on the edge of your seat. You might learn something, as well.

I don't want to give anything more away. I just suggest you treat yourself to this book.

Marty Snowden posted on on Aug 25, 2019 (rated 5 stars).


Mesmerizing Africa. . . Sitting down with Shadows along the Zambezi I was immediately transported into the mesmerizing Zambezi wilderness; the sounds, sights, smells and mystique that is undeniably unique to the African continent.

Novelist Diana M. Hawkins’ mastery of the descriptive narrative reveals the close-knit social structure of the African elephant and its habitat in an authoritative but eminently readable style. At the same time, the author highlights the very real and tragic plight of these magnificent leviathans as humankind’s insatiable greed for wealth from ivory decimates whole breeding populations.

Into this rich but disturbing ecological milieu, the author has masterfully woven a tale of courage, determination and romance, borne out of empathy and common purpose.

Political depravity and its impact on innocent lives in today’s Zimbabwe permeates the story as two conservation-driven individuals venture into the dangerous realm that is the illegal international trade in ivory. Suspense, action, love . . . ingredients that will transfix and enthral the reader to the very last page of a very commendable book.

Gerry van Tonder, author, researcher, historian, posted on on May 7, 2019.


Much of this story is fact and very true -- I so enjoyed this book, and towards the end I could not put it down, only finishing at 2 am! Having lived most of my early life in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, so many places had a lot of meaning to me. Diana’s knowledge of every detail in this book is incredible.

Sadly, so much of this story is fact and very true. It made me cry and at times it made me smile. I hope that it might awaken the world as to what is going on in many African countries, and instead of so many people burying their heads in the sand, perhaps they might stand up and do something. Smuggling and hunting are very soon going to leave the world a very sad place when there are no animals left.

Now I am off to read her next book 'Shadows over an African Heart.'

Dulcie Beak, posted on Facebook, on Nov 27, 2018


Five-star read -- As an expat Zambian, I enjoyed the descriptions of the bush and wildlife in particular.

Eden Hutchins, posted on Goodreads on October 27, 2017   

A love story so cleverly written--Shadows along the Zambezi is all-at-once a fascinating look at Zimbabwe, an education, an exciting adventure, and a love story. It is so cleverly written that you feel intimately associated with its characters, and the country, at times it is difficult to take a break because you want to find out what happens next. It is also noteworthy that the author knows every little nook and cranny in that part of the world when she talks about the white farmers, the streets, roads, rivers, animals (particularly elephants) and the people. An excellent five-star read. 

Norman S. Currey, posted on, on September 25, 2017   

5 out of 5 stars
Loved reading Shadows along the Zambezi -- Meeting Diana on her trip visiting her brother in South Africa was fantastic!! We spoke about her novel and I was surprised by receiving a signed copy!! This is an eye opener for each one reading!! I loved the story line and it kept me on edge!! Crying, laughing and by some just pure disgust at what was going on in Zimbabwe!! I met a waiter in town just as I was getting to the end and was told stories by him confirming what I've read!! This made me cry even more!! Can't wait for your next novel, Diana!!

-- Anonymous, posted on, on February 7, 2017

I thoroughly enjoyed this book -- As I've been to this part of Zimbabwe in the past, it brought back memories of a unique and awesome paradise. The story gives a good account of the desperate times the people and animals are living in.

-- Shirley Trickett, posted on, on February 2, 2017

(Rated 5 out of 5 Stars)
Loved it a real page turner! -- The mystery and intrigue all through the book kept me spellbound.

-- Avalon, posted on, on August 25, 2016

Rated Five Out of Five Stars

-- Ann Bergin & Mike Hart, posted on Goodreads on August 2, 2016

A must read! -- A tender love story set against the horrors of the wholesale slaughter of elephants, Shadows along the Zambezi is part love story, both human and animal, history lesson and an eye opening and unsettling look into the greed that can drive humans. The author grew up in Zimbabwe; the intimacy with the setting serves the reader well--no surprise therefore that a genuine love of place and habitat is evident. Readers unfamiliar with the world of ivory poaching will not be able to look at these magnificent creatures ever again in the same way. A page turner that will hold your interest from start to stop! ALL GOOD

-- Anonymous, posted on, July 25, 2016

Hope there is another book by this author, couldn't stop reading it.

-- Amazon customer, posted on, May 26, 2016

Gave it five stars, enjoyable.

-- Mrs. Dorothy Arnett, posted on, May 22, 2016

Could not put it down -- Her knowledge of the country is incredible and attention to detail. Being born in Zim I could not put it down. This review was given to me by my husband Andrew who was born in and grew up in Zim until the family had to leave when Mugabe came to power.

-- Molly G, posted on, April 9, 2016

An exciting tale of Africa with a ring of truth, highly recommended for fans of African historical fiction -- “Shadows along the Zambezi” is the thread of a fictional story woven into a broad tapestry of actual events. It tells of valiant efforts by a few to stop the wholesale poaching of Zimbabwe's wildlife, especially elephants. This poaching enriches Zimbabwe's corrupt, dictatorial government under Robert Mugabe. It also tells of the suffering of the Zimbabwe people and the harsh treatment of farm owners under the Mugabe regime.

Although written as fiction and set in 2008, sadly much of the story is based on real events that still are occurring in Zimbabwe to this day. Zimbabwe continues to be run by its autocratic, aging despot, Robert Mugabe, and his inner circle of lawless government ministers, abetted and supported by the Communist Chinese government. Mugabe's government, then and now, sacrifices the people and the wild animals of Zimbabwe in order to increase its hold on power and to allow a few to gain great personal wealth by dispossessing others.

“Shadows ...” is a tale of Africa with a ring of truth, highly recommended for fans of African historical fiction, and also for anyone who wants to better understand the on-going threat that poaching poses to the wildlife of Africa, a relentless slaughter opposed by only a few brave souls.

-- Paul Forbes, Florida, USA, March 5, 2016

Fast-paced, fact-based, inspirational African action adventure … - This book is simply a marvelous blend of fact-based fiction, skillfully woven into an exciting African adventure. What fun! I was hooked from the first paragraph. For those from Rhodesia, (Zimbabwe), you are going to love how the author incorporates fond memories and familiar places like, Karoi and Kariba. Getting to know the people, their lives, trials and strengths is captivating. This book has heart and soul and includes just the right amount of romance sprinkled into the danger and excitement.

If you've never been to Africa, this book takes you off the beaten track, providing behind-the-scenes glimpses into the multi-cultural lives of the people in Zimbabwe. You'll get a sense of how they bravely face tremendous day-to-day hardships in their own lives, and yet they still manage to go to great lengths to protect and preserve the dwindling animal population. These tenacious, courageous survivors go to great lengths so as to remain in the country that they love. Travel through the bush, vicariously observe and learn about the habits and lives of various elephant 'families' because this book not only entertains but educates and perhaps even inspires.

— Lux -- posted on February 14, 2016

Rated Five Out of Five Stars

-- Judy Lampson, posted on Goodreads on February 7, 2016

I look forward to her next book … - Di has a good knowledge of the Zambezi Valley as well as Africa as it is today. This might not be to many people's liking but the sad truth. I look forward to her next book.

— Alistair Holmes -- posted on February 2, 2016

Gripping -- Intensely gripping insight to the horrors of life in Zimbabwe.

-- Silly,, Jan 13, 2016

An action-packed adventure … I found Shadows Along the Zambezi thoroughly enjoyable and easy to read. Although it is a work of fiction, it could very well be a true story because most of what Diana has written has happened in Zimbabwe. It is an action-packed adventure and has a bit of everything to make it a well rounded novel. I especially loved the way she gets "up close and personal" with the elephants and her vivid descriptions of the Zimbabwean countryside and weather. I could really identify with this story because in my capacity as Chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, I have often been on anti poaching patrols and have had close contact with wild animals. Diana gives a very accurate account of the dangers, elation and sometimes heartbreak that accompanies this lifestyle. One word of warning, once you start reading this book, it is very difficult to put it down.

— Johnny Rodriguez, Chairman, Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force

This book doesn't disappoint -- Shadows along the Zambezi is a perfect blend of romance, history, drama and nature. The story is well paced and the characters believable and relatable. Hawkins with her beautifully penned words dramatically paints the African landscape and shows the real horrors of the ivory trade.

In reading this novel, I laughed, I cried, but most importantly I came to understand the political and economic issues facing the people of Zimbabwe. Hawkins clearly shared the history and current political environment that stokes the ivory trade and killing of some of the world's most magnificent animals.

It's good to know there are people whose mission it is to protect the elephant and others who support the people of Zimbabwe so they can live in concert with wildlife instead of conflict.

I highly recommend getting this book. It doesn't disappoint.

— Margaret Burkholder, posted on Barnes &, Jan 2015

A brilliant book -- Knowing the area, it is a fantastic story. But actually much of it is true and not fiction, as one would think. A brilliant book. Brought back many memories.

— Deanne Baster, — posted on , Dec 7 2014


This is a writer who could go from strength to strength. She tells a memorable and exciting tale against a very real background. There is so much more to be told and understood and Diana M Hawkins is very good at doing it. I am looking forward to her next book.

— Zizi — posted on, Nov 8, 2014

Love Conquers (nearly) All. Although this is basically a love story, the author has woven it into a novel that clearly expresses her love for the country of her birth and of it's wildlife. Having grown up in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) myself, the story brought back poignant memories of a lifestyle second to none. Sadly, the story also reminds us of the country's continuing slide into anarchy and the ongoing destruction of it's natural habitats. As does the author, I greatly admire the efforts of the people involved in the protection and preservation of Zimbabwe's beautiful wildlife and it's environments. I take my hat off to you all! Altogether a good, entertaining read. I look forward to the sequel.

— Mr. K.B. Barnes (UK) posted on, Oct 9, 2014

Highly Recommended — This has got to be one of the best books I have read that highlights the plight of elephants in Zimbabwe. The author has used her vast knowledge of elephants and the Zambezi Valley to weave a story of horror, intrigue and love in an oppressed country. The story is fast moving and very believable. Highly recommended for those concerned about the future of these magnificent animals - and who enjoy a good book. Well done.

— Ken Tilbury (author)

Zimbabwe (In Ruins?) — This book is hard to put down! The author brilliantly portrays Zimbabwe as it is today. Her knowledge of the Zambezi Valley, the wildlife and the people of Zimbabwe is commendable. The story itself is fast paced and very believable. I would recommend it for anyone looking for a good read and a bit of nostalgia.

— Phil G (Kwa Zulu, Natal)

White Gold — Elephants have roamed the Zambezi Valley for thousands of years. A young American biologist, studying them, is soon enthralled by these gentle giants as much as she is with a young farmer pilot who shares her passion. The author immediately captivates the reader, engaging them in the day-to-day lives of specific herds, while naming and describing individuals. We are engrossed to the point of almost 'bonding' with these animals, so the possibility of any harm befalling them becomes personal. . This virtually factual fiction will steal the hardest of hearts and hopefully make the world more aware of the ongoing plight of the African elephant. ... It would not surprise me if we soon see 'Shadows along the Zambezi' on the big screen.

— Greer Noble, author

Eye Opener — Shadows along the Zambezi is an interesting account of what has gone on in Zimbabwe. Hawkins weaves a human love story amidst the heartbreaking story of the fate of the elephants and the struggle for survival in a frightening political atmosphere. The depiction of the elephant herds is beautiful, and "witnessing" the birth of an elephant is heartwarming. The book was an eye opener for me.

— Richard Highfield

Zambezi Shadows -- What a wonderful read! "Shadows along the Zambezi" has a compelling story line, a strong sense of authenticity due to the author's growing up in Zimbabwe, a clear clash between the values of wealth and power and the value of life itself.

Diana Hawkins exudes love and respect for the elephants and her knowledge of these wonderful creatures, their daily habits and relationship patterns is extensive and comes through in vivid and realistic detail. This book has made me read with new eyes recent articles in the New York Times about the horror of elephant slaughter.

In 2012 I was fortunate to spend a week in Zimbabwe, visiting in several communities, my first step into Africa. In the midst of their troubles, the Zimbabweans are people with great heart and great hope for the future. The author is definitely a spokesman both for the people of that land and for the elephants.

— NancyO, New York

A good read .... I just finished reading this book. From this book I have gained a better understanding of the atrocies that are occurring in Zimbabwe to both humans and elephants. It is a page turner from the first chapter to the end. The action packed adventure is about relationships with people to people, people and elephants, and elephants to elephants. It's a great eye opener and a good read.

— Chris Kessler

Dynamic, Terrifying and Brutal ... In Zimbabwe, Africa, when environmentalist and anti-poaching enforcer Piet van Rooyen, and wildlife biologist Jessica Brennan discover the freshly mutilated corpses of an entire elephant herd, they realize they are dealing with a group of professional poachers.

In a country where greed, corruption, savagery and lawlessness extend to the highest authorities, they know they are in for the fight of their lives if they are to save the other herds in the Zambezi valley. Along the way, they discover love.

Although the characters in this book are fictional, most of the appalling and shocking events depicted actually have taken place and are still happening today in Zimbabwe.

Author Diana Hawkins shows her extensive knowledge and love of elephants and the illicit poaching operations that may yet wipe them all out.

Dynamic, terrifying, and brutal, the book will draw you in with its poignant romance, the almost human bond the elephants have for their herd members, and the stunning scenic descriptions, and you'll find it almost impossible to put it down.

— Trish Jackson , Author

Atrocities in Zimbabwe Come to Life ... I have been interested in the plight of Zimbabweans under Mugabe for a very long time, primarily because of my teaching responsibilities...and I think far too few Americans truly understand the horrors that have happened there to native white Zimbabweans and many of the native blacks, too.

This book, although fiction, is able to enlighten them through an easy to read story and if I were still teaching I would encourage my students to pick up this book. The emotional and physical turmoil is there. The roller-coaster ride of the currency is there as well as its final capitulation into uselessness. I was captivated by the story involving the confiscation of the farms and the poaching of elephant tusks - the romance wasn't even necessary to me. I had an understanding of the plight of the people, but not the story surrounding the wildlife.

Diana Hawkins makes her points while bringing life to this aspect of the story. I learned a lot about elephants and I always think a book is much better if one learns something after having read it. This is one of those books!

— B. Diekema,,College Instructor

Excellent Read ... Having lived in Zimbabwe from the early 50's until 2002 this book peaked my interest straight away especially as I lived in a farming area and experienced the farm invasions and general upheaval first hand - This book took me back to it all, it is very well written and the authors knowledge and love of elephants and Zimbabwe shines through, right from the start of reading this book I was transported back in time, so descriptive was this book, I had difficulty putting it down - Many of my ex Zimbabwean friend will be getting this book in their Christmas stockings this year.

— Lesley Strasser, U.K.

A fantastic Novel ... I witnessed the early stages of the novel when Diana and I took a novel writing class together. The finished product is filled with intrigue, danger, and romance. Great book from a dedicated author.  

Trish Cosey, Copywriter. Sr. VP of Sales at Manuscript Wizard (LinkedIn)   

Great Writer ... She always has her eye on the ball and on the ultimate prize -- the novel. Well organized and gets the job done.  

Miller, Store Manager, (LinkedIn)   

Filled with realism ... Diana's first-hand knowledge of Zimbabwe lends important credibility to her novel and other writings about this troubled country.  

Mary Alexander, writer. (LinkedIn)   

Elephant advocate ... Diana Hawkins' fast-paced fiction novel focuses on the illegal ivory trade in Zimbabwe.  

Marta Merajver, writer, Buenos Aires, Argentina   

Worth reading ...
Enjoyable reading, seeing I lived in Rhodesia for over 25 years I have become a collector of any books written over Rhodesia now off course known as Zimbabwe.

— Rob, U.K.

Excellent read
This was an excellent read; couldn't put it down. It took you to the highs and the the depths, very well written.

— Phillip Morral, U.K.

Great Book ... Very informative about what was going on in Africa at that time. Very engrossing story about that part of the country.

— Francis T Gardner, Sr. U.K.

Good Read ... Enjoyed from the very first page. Ms. Hawkins shows that she is familiar with Southern Africa and is not afraid to show some of the warts, but she also shows the beauty of the countryside. The love story was a bonus.

— Anomymous, U.K.

A real page turner. What a wonderful book! The first page grabs you and won't let go!  Subsequent pages keep you spellbound while educating you about the wildlife of Zimbabwe, especially elephants. The love story is just the gravy!

— Dorothy A. Jones

This novel has it all ... romance, action, humor, and heartbreak. The author's love for her homeland of Zimbabwe and her enchantment with African elephants shines through in every detail."

— Jojo (Afghanistan)


A must read … I couldn't help but be overwhelmed by the elephants. Their gentle souls and amazing spirit touched my heart. (The novel) is more than just another adventure/romance story … I'm giving a copy of this book to everyone I know!

— Lori A. White


Gripping; an intriguing story of love and passion in Africa ... This is the story of a man, tortured by his past, and driven by his passion to protect Zimbabwe's wildlife from poachers and corrupt government officials, while rediscovering love and trust. I highly recommend this book to all who love animals and those who protect them. 

Delmar Hawkins   

Blue Ink Review

Shadows Along the Zambezi
Diana M. Hawkins
iUniverse, 348 pages, (paperback) $20.95, 9781475954708
(Reviewed: January 2013)

In Diana M. Hawkins’ atmospheric thriller, love blossoms between an elephant researcher and the head of the Zimbabwe Wildlife Protection League as they battle poachers and corrupt government officials.

In 2008, seven years after the brutal murders of his wife and children during one of the violent farm invasions sanctioned by President Robert Mugabe, Pieter van Rooyen focuses his energies on trying to save the wild animals in Zimbabwe’s national parks.Their beleaguered and underfunded staffs are virtually helpless to stop rampant poaching, as we see in a gut-wrenching scene where a dozen men wielding automatic rifles slaughter a family group of elephants for their ivory tusks. Jessica Brennan, a doctoral candidate studying elephants in the Zambezi Valley, joins forces with Pieter to pursue the poachers, who are working in collusion with a phony Zambian travel agency supplying a Chinese diplomat.

Hawkins grew up in Zimbabwe, and her first hand knowledge is evident in vivid evocations of its wildlife and landscapes – and in her bitter depiction of the shambles Mugabe and his cronies have made of the country. Hawkins’ skills as a novelist are sharp as well: Jessica and Pieter’s pursuit leads to her kidnapping and a confrontation in a Zambian warehouse, both excitingly described. The capable assistance they receive from the Zambian police quietly makes the point that not all African governments are in bed with wildlife killers.

The ups and downs of Jessica and Pieter’s relationship aren’t as interesting as the interactions of the elephants that Hawkins’ lovingly delineates, but their romance makes a serviceable engine to drive the plot alongside the satisfying tale of the poachers’comeuppance. What will linger in readers’ memories is the beautiful, sorrowful portrait of Zimbabwe, a nation whose leaders have squandered its magnificent natural resources for short-term political and financial gain.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.