White West Indian David Wyatt, on loan from the Meteorological Office is working with the US Navy on the Caribbean island of San Fernandez. An expert on hurricanes, Dave almost has a sixth sense about them, and even though it would be atypical, he feels sure that Mabel, approaching fast, will hit the island. The trouble is getting anyone to believe him – to a man, everyone he speaks to tells him that San Fernandez doesn’t get hurricanes, that the last one hit in 1905. Of greater concern in the rumour that exiled, thought dead, rebel leader Favel is coming down from the mountains with an army of locals set to overthrow despotic President Sururier.
When Wyatt manages to get the UK ambassador to get him in to see Surrurier it becomes obvious that he’s insane, wholly closed to reason. All Wyatt can do is encourage the residents of his local hotel, including his girlfriend, flight attendant Julie, to flee for the hills.
Once again Bagley manages to write with conviction and power – Wyatt’s desperation is palpable, his characters come alive, and the pace is frenetic but digestible. Other trademarks of his writing are also present – here’s a love story, with a heroine who has strength and resilience and doesn’t need to be rescued by anyone but herself; an exotic locale, convincingly portrayed; and a weak man who comes good. It’s usually Bagley’s hero who’s flawed, but in this case redemption comes to Big Jim Dawson, a Hemingway-esque writer who lacks the grit that larger than life man had. Bagley’s gift is that these elements are never predictable or reproduced, and the stories are fresh even on the fifth or even tenth reading. And Wyatt’s Hurricane isn’t even one of my favourites! – Alex