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Credible Wilbur Smith successor - here with a WW2 Empire Air Training Scheme story set in Rhodesia
on 18 November 2013
Tony Park seems to be the one muscling in on the field recently vacated by Wilbur Smith - namely action packed thrillers either set in Africa, or with an African twist. And while African Sky may not be quite up there with the best of Wilbur Smith, it could certainly be claimed to be par for the course and definitely better than the latest, (apparently) ghost written attempts by the older, more established author.
The book circles around the murder investigations of Felicity Langham (glamorous Leading Aircraftswoman in the role of a parachute packer) and and the mysterious crashes of two Harvards used for training by the Empire Air Training Scheme. The investigations are largely led by Pip Lovejoy (from the police side) and Paul Bryant from the RAF side, who is at times both partner and suspect. That there is a larger plot behind the mysterious events is of course obvious.
The book is very easy to read and the author clearly considers doing proper research essential - which shows. I cannot vouch for every last detail but overall the book gives a polished impression and apart from some minor issues (airspeed for instance being alternatively quoted in knots and miles per hour), which are unlikely to upset the average reader, the book appears spot on.
The characters are very 'Smith-like' both in being displayed in various settings to show off their multifaceted personalities, as well as in their overall defence of the continent and what could be seen as the good aspects of the life there (some interpreting this very differently from others). Where Park differs is in weaving in more grander topics, such as the impact the war had on the opportunities of women to find paid work and a semblance of the first steps towards equality.
It does not, at any time descend into an ideological treatise, though, so rest assured that it is still primarily an action thriller with all the elements required for a page turning read. So if you miss the Wilbur Smith of old, this book is likely to pick up right where the other one left off, and the author should provide you with plenty of African themed fiction in the years to come.