I’ve always found it strange how, the older you get, time just seems to flyby uncontrollably! When you compare a full day in work and a day in school the two are incomparable – oh and don’t get me started on the holiday phenomenon! Why do two week holidays never feel like two weeks? With all this in mind – and there is a point to my ramble honest! – when I received Wilbur Smith’s latest African thriller “Those in Peril” from Pan Macmillan it made me sit back and think when I last read a Wilbur Smith novel.
After my memory recall was severely tested I came to the conclusion that it was approximately 15 years ago – the book was “The Seventh Scroll” – the second in the Egyptian series following the amazing “River God – review”.
“Those in Peril” is my first African based novel from Wilbur Smith – the Egyptian series has always fascinated me and I’ve always given his African genre a wide berth (no idea why!) – and given the recent events in Somalia the subject matter is incredibly relevant and up to date. As of last month Somali pirates are holding 31 vessels and 688 hostages, this includes the latest victims – a Danish family of five including three teenagers – incredible.
“Hazel Bannock is the heir to the Bannock Oil Corp, one of the major oil producers with global reach. While cruising in the Indian Ocean, Hazel’s private yacht is hijacked by African pirates. Hazel is not on board at the time, but her nineteen year old daughter, Cayla, is kidnapped and held to ransom. The pirates demand a crippling twenty billion dollar ransom for her release. Complicated political and diplomatic considerations render the civilized major powers incapable of intervening.
When Hazel is given evidence of the horrific torture which Cayla is being subjected to, she calls on Hector Cross to help her rescue her daughter. Hector is the owner and operator of Cross Bow Security, the company which is contracted to Bannock Oil to provide all their security. He is a formidable fighting man. Between them Hazel and Hector are determined to take the law into their own hands.”
The first thing that struck me about “Those in Peril” is the novel’s incredibly graphic nature – Wilbur certainly holds nothing back – the murders are brutal and the rape scenes are intense to say the least – one thing I can say with absolute certainty, this book will not leave you wondering! The book examines Muslim religion in depth, how Westerners react to Sharia Law and how radical Muslims despise Westerners with a passion. Some people may feel he went too far with his sex scenes but I guess the jury is still out on this one.
Religion is and will always be a sensitive subject, it doesn’t matter who you talk to, and Smith certainly pulls no punches in this book. He tackles the subject head on and it really does take you through a range of emotions – understanding the militant faction is a whole new ball game and one I’ll never, or want to, comprehend.
The narrative is astonishingly fresh and grabs you from the start. I found the flow interesting – on the edge action scenes, realistic scenarios and fluidity that will leave you breathless counteract Smith’s steady scene building prose – unquestionably masterful, why on earth had I left it so long between novels?
As I mentioned earlier the Somali pirates is an on-going problem in the Indian Ocean, a problem that appears to be growing on a daily basis despite a multinational patrol attempting to enforce a reduction of illegal activity. The foundation for “Those in Peril” centres on the pirates marauding the area and Smith blends fiction and real life realistically, making everything plausible.
Characterisation is always important in a novel – get it wrong and no matter how good the narrative, you’ve got no chance of making it to the end! Hector Cross is a “boys own” character who doesn’t disappoint! A determined character, Cross is your stereotypical leading man – handsome, brave, good with a gun and intelligent – someone you’d like to spend time with and have in your corner. His nemesis is the complete opposite – The Sheik is a nasty bit of work, violent, unhinged, evil and conforming to his religious beliefs he appears to have a lack of morals, nothing or no one will stand in his way – no matter the cost.
With numerous twists and turns and a couple of jaw dropping events, “Those in Peril” will take you one way and then the other and at no time can you say with certainty you’ll know what lies around the corner. With a wonderful descriptive and atmospheric narrative, Smith is undoubtedly a master of the thriller genre delivering a pulsating battle between good and evil – whose side will you be on?!.
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