Review: Those in Peril by Wilbur Smith

Oh hear us when we cry to thee
For those in peril on the sea.
— William Whiting

I start off every book wanting to love it. You don’t choose books to review because you think they’ll be bad. But sometimes they are.

Wilbur Smith’s Those in Peril would make a pretty decent spy novel. The problem is, he tries to make it more than that. He tries to add a romance that just doesn’t work; his female characters are painful to read. And there should be a law: that he never writes another sex scene. The other problem for me was that this was an audiobook, and the reader, Rupert Degas, did not enhance the experience of this book.

The story centers around Hector Cross, owner of Crossbow Security and his boss, Hazel Bannock. Hazel is the head of Bannock Oil; Crossbow provides security for their oilfields, shipyards and personnel, in dangerous Middle East locations. Hector is tough and worldly-wise. Hazel is beautiful and tough, worth millions, and absolutely devoted to her daughter, Cayla.

Cayla is a spoiled little bitch, and everyone but her mother can see it. She’s blowing off her college classes to spend her time in bed with her boyfriend, Rogier. While she is ensconced on the family’s luxury yacht, sailing off to visit her grandmother on her vineyard estate in Capetown, the yacht is overtaken by pirates and Cayla is kidnapped. There are no simple ransom demands, as this is no simple kidnapping.  There is far more involved here — and far more at stake — than Hector and Hazel realize.

Now, for the good stuff. The story is interesting, although it would have been better without the romance angle. The inside look at Middle Eastern pirates and radical Islamic blood feuds definitely makes an interesting read. There are some good plot twists that keep you going. However…

The female characters are terrible. Hazel Bannock does not sound like an oil company executive. Some of the things she says are so ridiculous, I literally groaned to hear them. No one addresses their college-age child by saying, “Oh, my darling daughter!” Does. Not. Happen. And the sex scenes? My god, they were painful to read. I felt bad for the Rupert Degas, the audiobook reader, for having to suffer through them.

I could have done without the detailed descriptions of torture that Smith keeps repeating. When the group is on the run and stumble upon an Islamic village where the residents are rounded up to watch the “public punishment,” I had to fast forward. There are also detailed rape scenes that were difficult to read (or listen to, in my case). Not for the faint of heart.

As for listening to it, this is one case where the audiobook doesn’t improve the story. Degas, the reader, does not do women’s voices well. Hazel sounds bad, but Cayla is even worse. I don’t know how you could hear her whiny little voice and not hate her.

All around, Those in Peril was not a good experience. I’ve got some brand new audiobooks from Macmillan Audio that I am planning to listening to on my drive to Detroit tomorrow (I am really looking forward to The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury!), so hopefully, I will have some better stuff to talk about really soon.


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