This is very much an uncharacteristic Largo Winch book, and not merely because the cover and logo have been redesigned. It starts with a bang, and as with other Largo Winch adventures, it’s serialised over two books, but everything appears wrapped up by the end of Crossing Paths. A threat to the W Group, Winch’s corporation, remains, but it appears no more than the usual financial machinations occurring around the group. 20 Seconds will reveal all.

Jean Van Hamme has become increasingly confident with his Largo Winch scripts, the kind of confidence his long career should breed. He barely bothered to conceal the villain of the piece beyond the opening pages for Cold Black Sea, and that’s the pattern again followed. The reader is first provided with a series of circumstances that appear just that bit too suspicious when linked, and that proves to be the case.

Van Hamme makes another interesting decision here, and it’s to tie his plot in with Islamic militancy. He hedges his bets, over a truly contorted plot and counter plot, but the central ploy is an Islamic cell wanting to destroy the W Group. Others also have it in for them, objecting to Winch’s singular form of caring capitalism. There’s also the interesting concept, relatively new to European material, of the crossover, as Van Hamme introduces Laurence Draillac, previously used in a two volume series titled Histoire sans heros (Story without Heroes), dormant since 1997. “I pictured you more as an adventurer than a businessman”, coos Draillac, while Winch replies “Your own exploits in the rain forest were something else too.” This bromance is an odd conceit, and while Draillac has a part to play, it’s not a role that couldn’t have been supplanted by others.

A further reason for this being an uncharacteristic book is that Winch’s presence is largely as a bit part in his own book, as plenty of time is spent with the supporting cast, particularly frosty secretary Miss Pennywinkle, and Winch’s second in command Dwight Cochrane. Both are seduced.

Crossing Paths is very much a plot and character piece, so there are no great action sequences of the type that Philippe Francq illustrates so well. No matter, he supplies an ensemble of beautiful people, and some fantastic views of London, and when called upon to create the output of an internationally renowned sculptor for their gallery opening there’s not a moment’s consideration that these aren’t authentic.

Having mentioned that Van Hamme has embedded his twists in an obvious fashion for regular readers, it bears mentioning now that this is deliberate. He lulls us into a false sense of smugness, having saved a surprise for the final pages. This is what leads us into 20 Seconds.