Review by Karl Verhoven
After three consecutive books where a corrupt member of the W Group board has been responsible for complicating Largo Winch’s life, Jean Van Hamme turns his attention elsewhere in this two-part tale.
It was established in The Dutch Connection that as Winch toured the world in his early twenties he spent some time with a particularly philosophical opium grower deep in the jungle area stretching into Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. Several years later, two friends are arrested and framed for murder when visiting the military state of Myanmar. Simon Ovronnaz is shipped off to what’s considered an impenetrable fortress to be held captive there.
Van Hamme has fun with the larger than life villainous jailers, one announcing as Ovronnaz arrives “We like to make sure our convicts look well on the day of their execution”. It’s silent, but the voice in your head supplies the “Mr Bond” suffix.
Even using the vast contact network afforded the head of a global conglomerate, Winch discovers there’s little political will to negotiate for the release of Ovronnaz. Being a resourceful man of action, though, Winch has few qualms about taking it upon himself to carry out a rescue. But what kind of writer would Van Hamme be if it all worked out as planned?
One interesting element is that Winch requires help, and there’s really only a single effective source from which he can obtain it. The price of this aid is called in later in the series, in volume 11, The Three Eyes of the Guardians of the Tao.
Philippe Francq ups even his high standards in his stunning portrayal of jungle scenery, temples at sunset and Alpine views. Yet his depiction of the cast never descends into sloppiness either, each distinct and recognisable whatever their age.
After a slight quality dip in the previous volume, this is the best to date. Van Hamme is still wordy, and his plot complex, but this time it doesn’t rely on squeezing vast gobs of explanatory text into the material. From the next in the series, See Venice…, Cinebook cease pairing the two-part stories in single volumes and instead release them individually.