Title: Crimson Clouds
Author: Ayodele Arowosegbe
Publisher: Kraft Books Limited
Reviewer: Nathaniel Bivan
‘This author’s ability to weave a conspiracy between two wealthy families; a former dictator and a business man is the strong point of the narrative. But the first line in this work of fiction is certainly not its best. It reads: “She drove along the quiet road at a steady speed as the rain poured down in endless fury.” The contradiction here is in “quiet road” and “the rain poured down in endless fury.” How can there be quiet while the rain pours in endless fury? How can one know whether there’s noise when the rain falls and makes the noise?
However, the story progresses nicely at a pace that keeps the reader enraptured when Zainab, daughter of a big shot, gets stranded after her car breaks down. She is rescued by Michael, an unemployed graduate who makes ends meet repairing cars that break down in traffic. She gives him a ride and it is obvious that there is attraction between them, especially when he refuses to accept the N5, 000 she offers, despite the fact that he was trekking home penniless, after an unsuccessful job interview when they met.
Set in Lagos, the narrative gets really engaging when the two arrange a meeting in Zainab’s exotic duplex in Victoria Island and their friendship blooms. Realising he has a first class result in Mechanical Engineering, she helps Michael clinch a job in Apexcom, a telecommunications company owned by her father, Alhaji Ibrahim.
In Apexcom, where Zainab is the head of operations for Lagos, their friendship soars. Soon, they visit each other at home and later get physically intimate after Michael unsuccessfully tried to thwart the temptation. It has never been a secret between the two lovers that Zainab is betrothed to Mohammed, son of Alhaji Sule, a former military head of state. Interestingly, both children are uninterested in the planned union which their parents have orchestrated long ago.
However, just before her wedding, Zainab gets to know the real reason why her father and father in-law to-be insist the union must hold. Alhaji Ibrahim and Alhaji Sule had a deal – while the latter was head of state – where the former was the recipient of the government’s stolen money. A huge chunk of this money went into the establishment of Apexcom and the marriage was a master-plan to transfer the wealth to Alhaji Sule through his son.
This knowledge convinces Zainab to go ahead and marry Mohammed in order to protect her family. But things quickly get out of hand when Michael is forced by Alhaji Sule to leave for London. On her wedding day Zainab quietly disappears with documents that would unveil the deeds of Alhaji Sule and rendezvous’ with Michael abroad. Soon a hunt for them begins by the former head of state while the media has a field day with the juicy story.
But an account of what took place in London; the attempted assassination of Michael and the involvement of the local police are not detailed. The characters in the book appeared vague and undeveloped. One of these is Detective Frank Jackson of the Interpol. Also, there is a lot of telling without showing. Page 56 reads:
“Jimmy replaced his phone and smiled to himself. He hoped Alhaji would not worry too much. He loved his boss and would try as much as possible to protect him and his interests. He was employed and paid for this, so he had to do his job with all diligence.”
Above is the typical example of telling without showing. After this sentence is an instant switch in the same paragraph, from Jimmy’s thought to an account of his life. By doing this, it becomes confusing whose voice is telling the story, whether it’s Jimmy himself or a third person. It continues thus: “Jimmy was one of Alhaji’s most trusted aides, who carried out his dirty jobs…”
Zainab and Michael were captured by the British police, but Detective Frank Jackson becomes convinced of the couple’s innocence and does a thorough investigation that leads to their eventual release. Alhaji Sule commits suicide, while his associates across the world are arrested.
The beginning of this book holds promise, as it portrays the challenges faced when young people from different backgrounds and religions fall in love and dare to marry, however, the delivery, especially from the middle of the story, which took an international dimension, is not good enough. Still, for a country battling with corruption and with a history of leaders who have embezzled public funds and still remain in the corridors of power or influence, it is indeed timely and informative. Even though a work of fiction, it shows that there is always an end to those who are corrupt.
Published by Kraft Books, under the Nigerian Writers Series (NWS) imprint, the paperback of this book has completely different features from some of the books in the series that are more portable. Perhaps, NWS should have considered giving certain (or the same) definite specifications for the various publishers of the series.