The Last Secrets of the Silk Road is jolly hockeysticks meets Genghis Khan; four English girls in their mid-20s decide to retrace the old Silk Road through central Asia by horseback and camel. This adventure is so outrageous and splendid that in the first few pages you wonder whether it can really be true. The girls all have happy schoolgirl nicknames, Alex, Wic, Mouse and Lucy. They seem to think that trekking across the Taklamakan Desert will be just one notch up from the local gymkhana.
The honesty and freshness of the whole adventure is finally winning. You can get caught up in this exaggerated summer camp experience. It was sweet that the girls cared so much for their hard worked horses and underfed camels. When the author fell in love with her Uzbekhi horse guide, the handsome and sensitive Shamil, the story took a personal turn that led to jealousies and petty recriminations amongst the girls. You expected them to resolve the problems with a pillow fight and a midnight feast, but instead they resort to home-made vodka and tots of bad Russian champagne around the campfire. By the end their determination, zest for life and willingness to encounter real danger and hardship wins you over. --Dwight Longenecker