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AFRICAN SKY
by Tony Park
Pan, February 2007
432 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 0330448854


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Tony Park writes a thoroughly entertaining adventure in this tale of World War II as it affected Southern Rhodesia.

Squadron Leader Paul Bryant is the adjutant at a flying training school in Kumalo. The raped body of a parachute packer is discovered in Bulawayo and two white members of the police force need to talk to Bryant about the crime. WPC Pip Lovejoy interviews him about the woman, Felicity Langham, or Flying Felicity as she is known because of stunts she performs. Pip has the feeling that the Australian, Bryant, might have known Felicity somewhat better than he would like to divulge.

Meanwhile, the reader has been treated to the final minutes of the life of pilot Smythe. The young man has been killed, but not as a result of the crash of his plane. Two bushmen were responsible for the murder of the man, clad only in his underpants, as he attempted to flee their attentions.

The point of view of the baddie of the piece is given as he takes the employment of the two murderous bushmen to its natural conclusion. It is made clear that he is unfriendly toward the British so one may assume his plan is somehow to damage them.

Catherine De Beers is a close friend of Felicity Langham and also, it appears, of Paul Bryant. He and Pip go together to break the news of the pilot's death to the wealthy woman who had been widowed not terribly long ago, in a hunting accident. Pip soon gathers that Paul is a very close friend of Catherine as he was of Felicity Langham, and that, in fact, the triangular friendship may have had closer ties than are usual in most friendships.

This is a well-written tale. It manages to combine an adventure with an unspoken commentary on the conditions that prevailed in the day. There was discrimination then against both the black indigenous population and the white women who were suddenly called upon to aid in areas where, previously, only white men had laboured.

The awful treatment meted out by some whites toward the native population was a sad reflection on the European attitude toward the blacks, seen in many countries throughout the world at the time. Some whites viewed the blacks as little better than animals and the treatment the blacks received was, in some instances, worse than that received by animals owned by the same people.

The characters of Catherine and Felicity, to my mind, verged on the cartoonish, although I realise that more space could not really have been devoted to their development since, if they had been provided with long back stories, the tautness of the plot would have suffered. Suffice it, then, that their broad stroke depiction is sufficient to the tale.

I enjoyed the descriptions of the landscape, which include glimpses of the wild life and gained the impression that the author is very familiar with the land he portrays.

The author is surely one worth watching, if he is, in future, capable of turning out further fiction of the standard achieved in this book.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, May 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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