Skip to main content




You do not have to be a pet owner or an animal lover to be drawn to Will Staples’ debut novel, ANIMALS. But whoever you are, I guarantee that you will have a completely different outlook on how animals fit into our present world and the human beings who work to protect them against those who exploit, harm and ultimately eliminate these beautiful creatures from existence.

We have all heard about animal poaching, yet only a fraction of funding is dedicated to stopping it, which is far less than the war on drugs or human trafficking. Regrettably, this criminal act goes beyond bartering in elephant and rhino tusks. It is so far-reaching that it has the power to erase entire animal species from our planet.

"The book reads like a page-turning thriller but with the additional benefit of opening your mind to the plight of those who are out there fighting for these precious animals around the globe."

“This is a story about animals, some of which happen to be human” is the tagline for the book that appears right before the Preface and aptly prepares readers for what they are about to experience. Much like a Robert Altman film, ANIMALS has multiple characters and storylines, most of which converge on a trio of lead players who drive home the narrative of this eye-opening work.

Cobus Venter, a park ranger based in Kruger, South Africa, has dedicated his career to battling poachers and saving endangered species. Sadly, he has seen some of his beloved colleagues fall during this very effort. Ironically, Cobus will have to step away from his job and go undercover as a “bad guy” who knows all the players on the other side in an effort to infiltrate and take down the animal poaching and trafficking from the inside out. Before it’s all over, he'll need the assistance of Randall Knight to make this happen.

Initially, you do not get a good feeling about Randall, who works on the insurance side of the rare animal’s game. He comes across as not very trustworthy even when he is investigating an event at a zoo in the U.S. where several big cats have mysteriously died from some unknown disease. He has a “come to Jesus” moment and decides to pursue it with the aid of a CIA investigator. This takes him overseas to Asia where he finds some shady and unspeakable acts being committed on tigers.

Kevin Davis is the CIA agent, and he is given one last opportunity to carve out a niche for himself as lead investigator into endangered species of animals and animal trafficking. He strikes out when he attempts to do this on his own. It is only when he works with Randall and, by association, through Cobus and his contacts that he can make a difference for both himself and these animals who are unable to speak for themselves.

Will Staples really knows his stuff, and his extensive research shines through every page. He familiarized himself with experts in the business --- from law enforcement and rangers who fight animal poaching daily to legends like Dr. Jane Goodall, who has become famous for her work on behalf of animals and wildlife. The book reads like a page-turning thriller but with the additional benefit of opening your mind to the plight of those who are out there fighting for these precious animals around the globe. There are more than a few moments that make you stop and think.

ANIMALS is a cautionary tale that hits far too close to home with a message that hopefully will inspire readers to learn more about the subject and do something about it. All proceeds from the book are being donated to nonprofit organizations dedicated to protecting wildlife.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on May 28, 2021

by Will Staples

  • Publication Date: March 30, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1094065889
  • ISBN-13: 9781094065885