John Maytham's Book Reviews

John Maytham's Book Reviews: Killers, poets, public servants and ingrates

Shadow Kill by Chris Ryan

Original Strikeback hero John Porter is here united with SAS antihero John Bald on a mission to Africa. Held up by rebel forces in a brutal siege, John Porter is tested to the limit in the African jungle.

Strikeback hero John Porter is sent on a mission with Regimental scallywag John Bald. Where Porter plays it by the book, Bald will always want to break the rules.

They are sent to Sierra Leone to extract Ronald Soames, a former CO of the Regiment and now right-hand man to the President. But when Porter and Bald arrive the Englishman has disappeared, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. Porter and Bald find themselves fighting shoulder to shoulder with the Regiment psychopath who is already embedded in the country.

But it soon becomes clear that the Firm has lied to them about the true nature of the mission. What seems at first to be a battle to control Sierra Leone's diamond mines will turn out to about a much greater evil - and with a trail that leads back to both Westminster and the Kremlin.

Larchfield by Polly Clark

It's early summer when a young poet, Dora Fielding, moves to Helensburgh on the west coast of Scotland and her hopes are first challenged. Newly married, pregnant, she's excited by the prospect of a life that combines family and creativity.

She thinks she knows what being a person, a wife, a mother, means. She is soon shown that she is wrong. As the battle begins for her very sense of self, Dora comes to find the realities of small town life suffocating, and, eventually, terrifying; until she finds a way to escape reality altogether.

Another poet, she discovers, lived in Helensburgh once. Wystan H. Auden, brilliant and awkward at 24, with his first book of poetry published, should be embarking on success and society in London.

Instead, in 1930, fleeing a broken engagement, he takes a teaching post at Larchfield School for boys where he is mocked for his Englishness and suspected - rightly - of homosexuality. Yet in this repressed limbo Wystan will fall in love for the first time, even as he fights his deepest fears.

The Republic Of Gupta - A Story Of State Capture by Pieter-Louis Myburgh

The Guptas, arguably South Africa’s most infamous family, have dominated news headlines for many years. But the landing of a commercial airliner packed with wedding guests at Air Force Base Waterkloof in 2013 sparked the most severe onslaught of public outrage the politically connected family had endured up to that fateful day.

Since then, they have become embroiled in allegations of state capture, of dishing out cabinet posts to officials who would do their bidding, and of benefiting from lucrative state contracts and dubious loans.

No Longer Whispering To Power - The Story Of Thuli Madonsela by Thandeka Gqubule

Advocate Thuli Madonsela has achieved in her seven years as Public Protector what few accomplish in a lifetime; her legacy and contribution cannot be overstated.

In her final days in office, she compiled the explosive State Capture report and, before that, the report on President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla residence.

Praised and vilified in equal measures, Madonsela has frequently found herself at centre stage in the increasingly fractious South African political scene. No Longer Whispering To Power is about Thuli Madonsela’s tenure as Public Protector, during which the whisper grew into a cry.

It is the story of the South African people’s attempt to hold power to account through the Office of the Public Protector. More significantly, this important book stands as a record of the crucial work Madonsela has done, always acting without fear or favour.


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