In 1936, in the midst of the Golden Age of Aviation, pilot Peter Billson competed in the London to Cape Town Air Race. After refuelling in Algiers he took off and was never seen again. After a wait of several months, while search parties failed to find him or any sign of the plane, his widow applied for the £100,000 insurance policy the race organisers trumpeted each participant was covered for.
Forty-two years later his son, spurred on by an article strongly implying Billson and his widow bilked the insurance company out of the settlement, has vanished. His employer, Franklin Engineering, wants to know where to and why, and sets Max Stafford, head of his own security consultancy company, to find out. Stafford is more interested in why a man working at a £2,000 per year job was earning £8,000 but obliges nonetheless. Frankly, with his marriage heading firmly south, Stafford’s not averse to taking a break from London.
Once again Bagley delivers, this time with a trip to Algiers and a glimpse of the stark beauty of the desert. Light on the romance, the standby elements of intrigue, exotic locale, flawed character who reforms, overt but contextually-appropriate violence and exposure to other cultures are all present, combined in a reliably enjoyable and refreshingly original plot.
There’s really nothing else I can say, except that I’m pacing myself as I have fewer Bagley’s left to re-read. A small break may be in order, to stretch out the remainder as long as possible. - Alex