This third thriller in Wilbur Smith's Crossbow series had me wanting to put
it down after reading the sex scene in the first few pages. Sorry, but the
impression it gave me was of a guy (the writer) who had something to prove.
Not the best way to introduce protagonist Hector Cross, a tough, though,
He has much to grieve about and it's not just because his wife was
murdered but in the bitter how. She was killed by Johnny Congo,
the psychopathic menace who Cross had captured alive instead of taking him
off the planet. Which is when Cross's wife Hazel Bammpcl talked Cross into
allowing this vile killer to live in order to meet a proper justice. Big
No one else in the world could have convinced Cross to take his arch enemy
alive but his Hazel. And, for that, the depraved monster was given the chance
to shoot and kill her.
That occurred in Smith's last book. At the start of this one, Congo is laying
on his death row cot reveling in his deed and what he knows it's doing to
The thing about Johnny Congo is size and strength, which are outdone only by
the size and strength of his sick, evil mind. Oh, and yes, a completely
crooked attorney in the suit and style of D'Shonn Brown, the progeny of
gangbanger Aleutian Brown, a small army of thugish followers, and a boatload
of hidden assets are all part of his entourage. For some reason, Congo, with
two weeks to go, is thinking more about his Geneva account than the upcoming
date of his execution.
With the help of his lady-friend(s) (wait'll you meet Zhenia!), Cross's
emotional pain subsides enough to get back to work as CEO of Crossbow
Security whose major client is the billion dollar firm of Bannock Oil
headquartered in Houston, TX. Crossbow holds Braddock installations in the
Middle East, their oil rigs and their 300,000 ton exploration ship, the
Bannock A, safe against terrorist attack or competitive sabotage. It's work
that our ex-SAS warrior is uniquely trained for. But he has yet to learn
about the most dangerous enemy any law-loving man's ever faced. That brute
goes by "His Excellency King John Kikuu Tembo."
This is macho, manly writing. Life and death action, closely detailed
firefights, move-for-move close combat, schemes, deception and betrayal. A
tall order that shows a formulaic mode calling for the noble, emotional hero
pitted against a treacherous villain out for personal fortune and power at
any cost to anyone.
Fortunately for those who gravitate toward Smith and the extremes of
international crime and villainy, he writes with compelling skill for fans of
bold action thrillers. While his reality is bent by scale and timing, Smith
is adept at creating a large cast of functional characters while maintaining
clarity -- at least for the most part.
If I were to play the game of guessing what collaborating writer Tom Cain was
brought in to contribute, it would be the sex scenes. They seem like steamy
insertions rather than organic parts of Smith's solid narrative flow.
Needless to say, I could be wrong.