‘ve been a fan of the African functionalist Wilbur Smith for decades. He writes wonderful books about the continent, both in the modern day and the ancient past. And one of his loose series is about the Courtney family that finds itself settling in Africa after World War One and building their dynasty, accumulating rotters and villains along the way.
Legacy of War is no different (a little more about that in my conclusion). This book opens just after World War Two. Saffron Courtney has been Mata Haring all about Europe during the war, doing those crazy resistance things and getting quite an edge on her skills. During this time she fell in love with one Gerhard, super-good not-quite-a-Nazi fighter ace, who ends up thrown into the very camps he objects to by his psychotic brother. So now his brother (a fat sadist) is put out by how the war ended. Even though he’s hiding in Africa, he decides he wants to get back at the brother he abused and sentenced to a slow death (yes, you can kinda see his point, right?). So he makes a move on the Courtney family, actually doing the whole innocent visit while the adults are away and leaving a chilling message with their young children.
Of course, this works well as Saffron and Gerhard go all out ballistic on them, hunting him down and killing him. But while they are distracted with this, a Kenyan freedom movement brings bloody rebellion to the land. And suddenly it’s a race back to the mansion back home, where a supper party turns into Rorke’s Drift with upturned tables, hunting weapons and lots of angry natives to pot.
While I read this book, I didn’t think it carried Wilbur Smith’s top-notch writing. It just felt… formulaic. When I looked a little closer at the cover (a two-engine bomber taking off from a blurring runway) I realized that hidden in the gray blur were the gray letters of his “co-author”. Yes, this happens all too often – a writer sells out his name and fame and let’s someone else “co-” it, with varying degrees of success. To tell you the truth, I like Wilbur Smith’s writings – he’s always delighted me with his cleverness. In this case, the result was a bit diminished.