A CAFÆ’ ON THE NILE by Bartle Bull


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A fat but fast-moving sequel to 1992's The White Rhino Hotel. Now, in 1935, Mussolini's Italy, hungry for empire, stands poised to overrun tiny Ethiopia. Caught up in this cruelly one-sided conflict will be a motley cast of adventurers with negligible interest in either side. It's a spectacularly self-involved group, though the individual agendas vary wildly. Anton Rider, professional safari guide, is obsessed with retrieving his estranged wife. Ernst von Decken, professional pirate, guards with his life the booty he's managed to steal from the Italian army. The twins Harriet and Bernadette Mills, rich and relentlessly randy, single-mindedly seek stimulation--of any kind. Italian Colonel Lorenzo Grimaldi wants to be General Grimaldi. In addition, he wants Gwenn, Rider's wife. Meanwhile, the pragmatic, existential, highly original dwarf Olivio Alavedo, who owns the Cataract CafÆ’, has long since given up wanting to be taller-or to live longer than the five more years he's certain have been allotted to him. Still, he has his own fixation: with an intensity that seems irrational even to him, Olivio yearns for an heir. And so on. The fighting breaks out in full force, and Bull deftly maneuvers his actors so that in the Ethiopian hills they're positioned to wage their ferocious little war within a war. As Rider tries to shepherd his safari across the border to the safety of British hands, he encounters Grimaldi at every turn. Grimaldi must stop him--or lose Gwenn. And then, suddenly, there's a matter of statecraft to consider. One of the twins has been taking politically embarrassing pictures, dangerous if they miscarry, for they prove that, despite bold-faced denials, the Italians are indeed using poison gas. The killing scenes are graphic, the sex scenes enthusiastic. Squeamish readers should proceed with caution.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1998
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Carroll & Graf