May 5, 2016

Book: A Time to Die by Wilbur Smith

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 10:40 pm

imageWe have reviewed many Wilbur Smith books earlier, including Those In Peril, Assegai, and The Quest, in addition to many others. This is another of the typically swashbuckling tale by Wilbur. And this is yet another Courtney story.


Claudia is hiding with her father Col Riccardo Monterro and his men in a hideout trying to hunt. Attracted to Sean Courtney, papa’s guide. They are lion hunting which goes horribly wrong due to ‘female stupidity’ and Sean, of course, saves Claudia’s life. Then they go elephant hunting. His right wing views of why hunting is good for the environment is interesting indeed.

They get the lion in the end while simultaneously hunting elephants but because of the serial stupidity of Claudia, a man is mauled before they get the lion truly killed.  Sean’s license is in danger.


They hunt the big elephant next.  Oh, I know Wilbur is good with the hunting scenes but hardly have I seen a book where the hunting scenes are stacked back to back like this one.


He foils a group of poachers but loses the elephant Tutekala. It is funny how he rues an institution like the great elephant is almost lost when his own plans were to shoot it down. This contradiction is very obvious in many of the Wilbur Smith’s novels and he argues the hunter’s case that without the money from hunting, the wildlife will not be preserved by the natives. But even taking this argument at face value, justifying killing the most majestic elephant for trophy with no compunction about the loss of tourism due to its absence is taking this argument to the extreme.


The elephant goes into Mozambique and Sean, realizing that his license was anyway going to be revoked by his spiteful boss, decides to chuck it all and pursue it across the border for an offer of half a million dollars from Riccardo.


They follow the elephant. Riccardo almost gives up due to cancer and Sean is sent by Claudia with Riccardo to complete the job when he twists her ankle.  Ricardo meets a fitting end right with Tutekela and Sean leaves them there and returns, only to find Claudia kidnapped by the fighters. He pursues them but is dismayed to find an army surrounding her.


He has sent away his faithful servants, but gets captured by his archenemy Captain China (Now General China). His attempts to escape and his recapture are told in vivid detail as only Wilbur can.

He commissions Courtney, using Claudia as a bargaining chip, to retrieve some ammunition from the Frelimo enemy, dressed as a Western captain and going into Zimbabwe incognito.

They get the guns and bust out of there in a plane, no less.


When China drags his feet, Sean burns all manuals and makes sure that China cannot get by without him. China again blackmails him to agree to destroy the Hinds and he takes Claudia along with him for this trip.


Job gets really wounded. Since he refused to leave with what he already earned when Sean offered it to him, and since he has been at Sean’s side all his life, it devastates Sean.


He learns of China’s treachery by Alphonso’s change of heart but is betrayed by their own troops who elect to desert him and go back to China, warning him of their escape.


Their near capture in a forest (saved by Frelimo attack), China’s growing anger and obsession to take him on and a final confrontation atop a hill where they are fully surrounded by China’s forces when China comes back with an inadequately refurbished plane are all well told. The story is typical Wilbur, with all its mix of hunting, sex, revenge and gore.


Also typical of Wilbur is how little Claudia mourns the loss of her father and gets totally involved with Sean with just a token commiseration of her father’s recent death.


Satisfying to a fan of Wilbur. Typical, but racy story in the formulaic framework of Wilbur.

–  –  Krishna


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