Mike Ripley's Crime File; Book Reviews

Article excerpt

African Sky by Tony Park (Pan, pounds 6.99) is a big, meaty, romantic thriller set, unusually but convincingly, in Southern Rhodesia during the Second World War. It begins as a detective story with an engaging heroine, volunteer policewoman Pip Love-joy, investigating the death of a sexually promiscuous W A A F from the local RAF training base.

This wartime investigation expands to include the thriving black market in petrol, crashed aircraft, missing pilots, racial tension and mob violence and eventually a chillingly modern plot involving political assassination and mass murder.

The scale and scope of the book is very ambitious and threatens to spiral out of control towards the end in a very drawn-out climactic chase, but then Africa is a big canvas and Tony Park obviously knows it well and doesn't short-change his readers.

Anyone who ever enjoyed a Wilbur Smith novel will be thrilled with this one.

Joseph Wambaugh hit the big time more than 35 years ago as the Los Angeles policeman who became a bestselling writer with a realistic, very gritty view of life "on the streets". Now he's back with Hollywood Station (Quercus, pounds 14.99), his sharp-eyed take on the lowlife that inhabits the underside of modern Hollywood and the multitude of characters he presents to us would not be out of place in Dickens.

Hollywood Station is a patchwork quilt of street people and incident, all of which come across as totally realistic. The terrible cost of the widespread availability of drugs and poverty in urban America is never underplayed as addicts and the homeless struggle to survive in one of the most glamorous parts of one of the richest cities in the world and the police officers charged with keeping order are, by turns, vain, lazy, wise and brave. In other words, they are all human in Hollywood; wherever they sit on the social ladder.

Wambaugh's best book for many years is also very funny, with lots of politically-incorrect jokes about new Russian immigrants to America which the author would probably not have tried with other ethnic groups. …