Ex-CIA agent Ben Hardin was burned by the fallout from Watergate and is now working for his former colleague, Gunnarsson as an investigator in New York. His latest assignment’s pretty standard – to track down any relatives of a South African immigrant called Adriaan Hendriks, who arrived in the US in the 1930’s, on behalf of a UK law firm. It’s a little sketchy, and Hardin’s been told to stay away from the agency’s other branches, but although the job requires a bit of research it’s not too hard. Within a few weeks Hardin’s managed to track down the only son, a hippy named Henry Hendrix, and has brought him to Gunnarsson. Instead of the bonus he was promised, and the shipping of his beloved car from San Francisco, Hardin’s summarily fired.
After thinking about it a bit he thinks something suspect might be going on. Using his severance pay, Hardin flies to London, to do a little investigating at that end.
Security consultant Max Stafford, last seen in Flyaway, is thinking of expanding. When Africa, specifically Kenya, is suggested he gives the proposal some thought but concludes that it’s too risky. However, when Alix Hendricks calls, weeks after the birth of her first child, to tell him her husband Dirk has not only taken off for Kenya but also received a sizeable inheritance from his long-lost grandfather, and then tells him a US investigator wants to talk with her about it, Stafford feels obligated to get involved.
After meeting with Hardin, Stafford believes he’s genuine and that something’s going on. He, his manservant Curtis (Sargent to Stafford’s Colonel when they served in the army) and Hardin fly to the Dark Continent to investigate further.
The rest of the book is filled with intrigue, exotic creatures, internecine squabbles, kidnapping, attempted murder, hot air balloon rides, alleged scientific research stations masking sinister plots, political unrest and a brief history lesson on the legacy of artificial boundaries on the African people.
“Windfall” is not my favourite Bagley novel – this time around I’ve given it some analysis and I think it’s a combination of more telling (versus showing) than usual and a slightly intricate but dry plot - but Bagley at his worst is more enjoyable than more writers on an average day Like the last Stafford novel, there’s no romance, but otherwise this certainly holds is own. I just wouldn’t start with this if embarking on the joy of one of the Western world’s most enthralling adventure writers. - Alex