by Wilbur Smith (Macmillian, RRP $55):
My brother, an avid reader, introduced me to Wilbur Smith when I was still in my teens and I’ve enjoyed his novels ever since.
Smith is easily my favorite author and I love his books more now than ever. He is the master of the epic adventure and once started his novels are hard to put down.
Now after finishing Vicious Circle I can safely say that I have read Wilbur’s worst novel.
In this, the sequel to Smiths previous book Those in Peril, Hector Cross returns and immediately his quiet life is overturned by a violent attack. A terrorist group has re- emerged and Cross draws together a team of his most loyal friends from his former life in Cross Bow Security to hunt them down.
This novel is all over the place, a touch of Lee Child, a snippet of Clive Cussler everything bar Wilbur Smith himself. The dialogue is embarrassing, the plot implausible and the violence stomach churning. It felt like a first draft or as though someone else wrote huge chunks of it. Which is interesting because after publishing Vicious Circle with Pan Macmillan, Smith’s future novels will be ghost-written.
It was reported that Pan Macmillan refused to go along with this and so after half a century together and 34 novels Smith severed ties with them, joining HarperCollins for a six-book deal worth £15 million (NZ$28.8m) .
Throughout Vicious Circle it felt that Smith, who is now 80, hurried through, maybe in anticipation of his semi-retirement or perhaps the ghost writing has already started. I just know that it doesn’t stack up to his other stellar work.
The other crazy thing is that with all its faults I could not stop reading it. Yes it is cringe- worthy but it is also strangely compelling and a page-turner.
Smith has been constantly good for so long I’m willing to forgive him a mediocre book and perhaps if this was written by anyone else it may not have grated me so much.
If you haven’t read a Wilbur Smith before then you’re cheating yourself, pick one up and dive in, you won’t regret it – just don’t make it this one. But if you’ve read them all, pick this up, just lower your expectations and you should be fine, you may even enjoy it. After all, a bad Wilbur Smith is still better than most of the other stuff out there.