Email this review


First fiction, set at the end of WW I, in which a frontier Kenyan hotel provides rest, shelter, and large drinks to a fugitive Gypsy, wounded Tommies, murderous Irishmen, scheming Portuguese colonials, displaced Germans, an American cowboy, and a pretty Welsh woman. Bull's nonfiction Safari (1988) covered some of the same geography. Having sold the bulk of his British estate and mismanaged his plantation ventures, Adam Penfold finds that his fortune has dwindled to the White Rhino, a hotel in the Kenyan highlands. Lord Penfold and his oppressively horsy lady Sissy preside over the place, leaving management to their major-domo Olivio, a dwarf whose spying and sexual skills are state of the art. As there is much to spy out and many itches to scratch, Olivio is a very busy man. The end of the war has brought a new wave of settlers to the colony, hopeful men and women who are about to find out that the rich Kenyan soils are very choosy about what crops they'll support and that the old Kenyan colonials can be as treacherous as the worst villains in Europe. Anton Rider, with his gypsy skills and restless intelligence, is one of the few immigrants truly suited to the whims of Africa. Dashing Anton has become smitten with Gwenn Llewellyn, who has joined her badly crippled husband to carve out a new life and who has already made a couple of very dangerous enemies in a pair of violent Irish brothers. Adam and Gwenn are made for each other, but before they sort things out, there are swamps to ford, savannahs to cross, dalliances to be enjoyed, pythons to wrestle, elephants to cook, and legal business to sort out. Very nicely done. Bull has sensibly resisted the temptation to turn his racy African adventures into a sweeping, gabby epic, so everything moves at a cracking pace. Much ground is covered, but since the time is short, the stories are well contained.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1992
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Viking