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.
“Those In Peril” is Wilbur Smith’s latest 34th novel. It was published some time in 2011. He was born in Central Africa in 1933. He became a full time writer in 1964 after the successful publication of “When The Lion Feeds”. He should be 78 yrs old now. He is at the height of story telling. He now comes out with a new novel after every two years. His next novel should be in 2013. I have read every novel written by Wilbur Smith. More than 120 million copies of his novels in 26 languages are sold worldwide.
I borrowed “Those In Peril” from the library. The paperback version is not out yet. Only the Hard cover copy is available. I have just finished it. It is about 400 pages.
From the short review above, the story seems so simple. The daughter of the multi billionaire heiress Hazel Bannock was captured by the pirates in the Indian Ocean. They demanded US$20 billion ransom. Those pirates operate in modern day Somalia (Puntland) off the African coast. It is a failed state where there is no government at all. Only the bandits and pirates rule the area. The Tippoo clan is the most powerful and notorious group of pirates having a strong fortress in the Oasis of Miracle calling themselves “Flowers of Islam”.
The hero is Hector Cross, Head of Crossbow Security who is a tough ex Marine with years of fighting experience in the Middle East and Afghanistan. He is in charge of the overall security of the oil company – Bannock Oil empire.
Cross organizes a successful expedition to rescue the daughter of the heiress. An intimate relationship develops between Hazel Hannock and Hector Cross. They then got married and it seems that they live happily ever after. Cross is made Vice President of the oil empire. The daughter enrolls in a veterinary college in America. They travel to so many places in Europe, Japan and even Russia. They even met the Queen and Prince of England. Life seems so good until Hazel’s mother and daughter were beheaded by those pirates.
The beheaded heads were delivered to the bathroom of their bedroom. Thus begins the second wave of the story. Cross took charge and organized his own private storm troopers of mercenaries with the sole intention of wiping out those pirates operating in Somalia. So many merchant ships were hijacked and so much ransom money was paid to those pirates. It seems that they are unstoppable. No one can stop them. Not even the US navy can do it due to many constraints and human rights issues.
The Hannock oil empire happens to build the world’s largest gas tanker at that time. The ship is built in Japan and retrofitted in Taiwan. They make use of the tanker to draw out those pirates from their base to attack them. It is not so easy to attack their fortress. Due to the greed of the pirates, they also aim to capture the biggest ship on earth. Special compartments are designed where the private army and equipment such as three armored vehicles and cannons are cleverly concealed until the pirates capture the tanker where they will counter attack and all hell break lose!
Overall I feel that the novel is entertaining and quite exciting. It is a page turner. The story unfolds rapidly especially towards the second part where after the heads are delivered to the main characters i.e. Hector Cross and Hazel Hannock. The meticulous planning and brain storming of how to extract vengeance on the pirates is very informative. How the storm troopers numbering about 70 odd personnel are sourced and recruited is also interesting read.
Wilbur Smith is able to describe in details some of the breath taking moments. For instance, the Russian girl who is supposed to be double of the heiress Hazel Bannock manages to overcome so many tough pirates in the bedroom. She is bound and gagged about to be raped by so many men yet she is able to break free and kill few of them. It is not so easy to describe the exciting scene. The part where Hazel Bannock went to the toilet when she stumbles upon the human heads of her mother and daughter is also very heart wrenching. It is skillfully described by Wilbur Smith in graphic details of the immense shock and trauma experienced by her.
I am of the opinion that this latest offering by Wilbur Smith is quite a good read. It is an adventure based story bringing us to the rough and arid deserts to the posh boardroom and bedrooms across African hinterland, vast oceans and many countries in America (Texas) and Europe. The landscape is wide and varied.
Read it if you want some light entertainment.