Victoria Griffith’s debut novel Amazon Burning follows the exploits of Emma Cohen, a journalism student who leaves New York under a cloud of suspicion. She arrives in Brazil to shadow her father, bureau chief for the Guardian newspaper. Ill at ease with upper-class Rio society, she jumps at the chance to accompany her father while he reports on the murder of an environmental activist in the Amazon rainforest.
On the way they meet up with the impossibly handsome and charming photographer Jimmy Feldman — a Brazilian-born son of expat parents. While Emma’s father is off reporting, Emma and Jimmy embark on their own investigation, attempting to navigate a web of corruption involving local officials, miners, rancher, smugglers, and other parties who stand to profit from the destruction of the rain forest.
One part eco-thriller, one part teen romance, Griffith’s novel offers readers a close-up view of modern life in Brazil. Her vivid descriptions of the Amazon and the Yanomami who live in it are far more compelling than the love story between Emma and her hunky photographer. I also found the account of Emma’s troubles in New York rather overwrought and improbable. Aside from these few false notes though, the book is well worth a read.