People of my generation remember when South Africa and its neighboring Rhodesia were no-go zones; Americans simply didn’t travel there. For all its gold and diamonds, South Africa was under a shadow like that of the Soviet Union, only it wasn’t communism. I remember in middle school in the late 1960s that our social studies teacher, Mr. Silvan, taught as about Apartheid, which he pronounced carefully as apart-hate.
We forget, in the midst of our reborn national shame over racism and anti-immigration sentiment, that there were places in the world that were far worse.
Nick and Carter are at a funeral in Capri with a group of English aristocrats when they receive word that a friend of theirs from their Léopoldville days in the Congo is seriously ill in Salisbury, South Rhodesia. Of course they immediately plan a new adventure that takes them by boat and plane to the charming, verdant, and rigidly controlled center of African racist political practice. They begin to break laws gleefully in order to do good.
There are things that Frank Butterfield always does in his books. He always describes people by height, weight, clothing, and looks. He always makes Nick cry. As this series has developed and matured, he always shines a light on an unpleasant piece of our history, to remind us once again what heroes Nick and Carter really are, although they never seem to think so themselves. Along the way they meet a cast of characters who bring the past alive and make it feel very much present. Some of these people remind us of our worst selves; some of the best part of us. Some are more ambiguous.
This time, for all that they do, Nick and Carter are ultimately upstaged by Nick’s stepmother, Lettie Williams. Nick is also confronted with the simple fact that his money can cause problems as well as solve them. Perhaps my favorite irony is the moment when a closeted financial minion of the government approaches Nick and Carter to request on behalf of the U.S. Government that they stop taking gold out of the country, because Nick is apparently the largest shifter of U.S. cash to Europe in the country. The irony here is that the very country that hounds him and Carter relentlessly for being gay, also wants them to play nice so the FDIC doesn’t get into trouble. Don’t know where Butterfield came up with that, but it’s a pretty nifty detail.
There are no new lessons in this book. There are new places and new faces, and plenty of new things to bring tears to your eyes from the many emotions Butterfield’s stories release in his readers. But every book in this series, beneath the fun and the wide-eyed time travel into the past of my childhood, reminds me how lucky I am, as a gay man in America, right now. In spite of everything; in spite of the anxiety that everything could change for the worse (so it seems some days). Ultimately, I am reminded that anyone who has a circle of devoted friends who care for him and are cared for in turn are the luckiest people on earth.
- Paperback: 292 pages
- Publisher: Independently Published (18 September 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1723736600
- ISBN-13: 978-1723736605
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.9 x 20.3 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 386 g
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