Star of Africa | Scott Mariani | 2016 (5 May) | Avon | 436p | Bought copy | Buy the book
A new Ben Hope thriller by Scott Mariani is a cause for celebration and we have been so lucky lately with not just one book a year but two! But, you know what they say, you can never have enough Ben Hope. Star of Africa might be the thirteenth thriller to feature this hard-drinking, deep-thinking Irish action hero but it’s a little different from the others. This means that you can read it without having read the rest. This isn’t a series that demands to be read in order, although Ben’s story – particularly his agonising personal life – does develop through the novels, but who wouldn’t want to read these books?! What sets Star of Africa apart is that it’s actually the first of a two-part sub-series (if that’s a term), which will conclude in November with The Devil’s Kingdom. This means that Star of Africa ends with a cliffhanger that makes me want to pull my hair out. Being patient for November will not be easy. There is one way in which Star of Africa doesn’t differ from the other books – it is flippin’ fantastic.
The Ben Hope thrillers tend to fall into two types – those that contain some great mystery at their heart, often archaeological, and those that are action thrillers, usually with Ben at their heart rather than an artefact or a place. While Star of Africa does feature an object that all people desire and some will kill for, this thriller falls into the second category. Star of Africa is an utterly exhilarating, exhausting thriller of a ride that is next to impossible to put down once picked up. The action doesn’t let up for a moment. There are rare occasions when the reader – and Ben – might get to draw a breath but this is totally inadvisable because there are baddies here that live only to be more evil than anybody else. Best to keep moving and don’t look back.
Ex-SAS major Ben Hope attracts trouble like wasps to jam and when somebody very close to Ben gets a job onboard a cargo ship carrying freight down the east coast of Africa it can come as no surprise to anyone, least of all Ben, that the ship gets captured by merciless pirates. But these pirates aren’t your average Somali pirates. They are much worse and there is something on that ship that they are determined to find, however many bodies they have to step over to get it. Their leader is a monstrous man, a blending of the worst despots in recent African history, whose weapon of choice is a machete. A formidable opponent indeed for Ben Hope.
From the moment that Ben’s feet land on the deck of that ship, the action rises to a whole new level of drama, tension and violence, new even for a Ben Hope novel. The story takes us in all kinds of unexpected directions, some at sea, some on land, and it’s relentless, in the best of ways. It is, though a particularly violent novel. The violence is also not at all James Bondy, it is realistic, horrifying, believable. We know these things have gone on in the world and it’s all shown here. This makes the novel dramatic but it also makes the reader engage on another level. We care for Ben (some of us might even have a crush on him). We worry about those he loves. There are moments here when Ben breaks down, rare indeed for Ben Hope. This is a new Ben, taken to his very limit and realising it as it happens. It’s harrowing. It’s fantastic.
I read Star of Africa in two sittings. I’d have read it in one if I could. I wondered at the time if it could have been combined with The Devil’s Kingdom into one book – I’m not a fan at all of cliffhangers – but I think that if it had been we would have lost a lot of the detail and tension. Star of Africa is over 400 pages. It’s a good length and I like the fact that, rather than compress a combined novel into fewer pages, Scott Mariani has been able to develop a key story in Ben’s development, as a person and as our hero, as fully as it deserves.
I know I rave about Ben Hope thrillers on a regular basis. I can’t help it. I love them and want everyone else to love them too and Star of Africa is among the very best.
Ben Hope 7: The Sacred Sword
Ben Hope 8: The Armada Legacy
Ben Hope 9: The Nemesis Program
Ben Hope 10: The Forgotten Holocaust
Ben Hope 11: The Martyr’s Curse
Ben Hope 12: The Cassandra Sanction