After Omdurman

Written by John Ferry
Review by Mike Ashworth


It is 1935 and backbench Tory MP, Colonel Evelyn Winters is fighting a campaign in the House of Commons to prevent a bill which will give India dominion status. At the same time he is writing his memoirs of his exploits as an intelligence officer in the 1898 campaign to retake the Sudan from the followers of the Mahdi. He is assisted by a young historian called Parker who is acting as researcher. The book alternates between the campaign in the Sudan, where he is tasked by Kitchener with finding the saboteur who is threatening the success of the campaign, and the ongoing battles in Parliament, where after some years of silence he speaks out with great, but ultimately unsuccessful, effect against the bill.

Colonel Winters epitomises the culture and manners of Britain at that time without descending into cliché, but I found his adversary’s motivation rather weak. The device of running parallel storylines worked to a limited extent, but it felt at times to be contrived in that it was a device to introduce and involve Parker whose link to the campaign is eventually revealed. An enjoyable read, but I would wait for the paperback.