Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Review of African Sky by Tony Park (Pan, 2006)

Rhodesia, 1943. Felicity Langham, a high-profile WAAF working at Kumalo air base, is found raped and murdered. Pip Lovejoy, a farmer married to an army officer fighting in Italy and working as a policewoman, is involved in the investigation. Her boss quickly arrests a local man who is active in the black market. Pip is not convinced the man is the murderer and tries to keep the case active. After flying close to sixty missions over occupied Europe and Germany, Paul Bryant is now second in command at the airbase. He knew Langham intimately, but he’s also got problems, including a missing plane and a murdered pilot, and a second plane damaged on landing at the farm of Catherine De Beers, who coincidentally was a very close friend of Langham. Lovejoy and Bryant team up to solve their respective cases, but the evidence points to Bryant having more than a passing interest in the Langham case. Meanwhile, a darker force is at work.

African Sky is part romance, part murder mystery, and part spy adventure tale set in Rhodesia in 1943. The story revolves around two murders related to Kumalo air base, a site where thousands of airmen are trained in skies free of enemy aircraft before shipped to Europe for active service. The first murder is of a young daredevil WAAF, the second a pilot killed after landing his plane in the bush. Pip Lovejoy a local white farmer turned policewoman is investigating the first, Paul Bryant an Australian veteran of bombing runs over Germany the latter. They team-up to investigate their cases. While the romance and murder mystery element work okay, the spy adventure part of the tale is much weaker. In part, it is because the storyline is at the limit of plausibility, and in part, because this aspect of the story has lengthy back story tangents that detract from the main storyline. The result is a denouement that has plenty of action, but is overly melodramatic and far-fetched. Overall, some interesting history, a nice romantic hook-up, but a story that didn’t quite fit neatly enough together.

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