Last Dance in Kabul

Written by Ken Czech
Review by Waheed Rabbani

In 1841 Afghanistan, in the recently captured Kabul Fort, British Captain Reeve Waterton is having a heated discussion with his commanding officer, Brigadier Shelton. Reeve has had several sepoys from his company go AWOL. He found one of them murdered in town and learns of a native uprising. But when he is unable to convince Shelton of the danger to the small British garrison and camp followers, Reeve resigns and departs for Bombay. There he joins the Survey Department. At about the same time, Shelton’s pretty nieces, twenty-year-old Sarah and fifteen-year-old Connie, arrive in Bombay. Sarah meets Reeve at a dance but takes an immediate dislike to him. The sisters join a caravan for Kabul, where Sarah is to be married to an officer—Reeve’s nemesis. In a mountainous region, rebels ambush the caravan. While most of the British escort is killed, and the sisters are in danger of being captured, Reeve and his group, who happen to be surveying nearby, rush to the girls’ aid. They learn to support each other for their survival.

Ken Czech has penned a romantic story set during the infamous 1842 retreat of the British East India Company, “Elphinstone’s army,” from Afghanistan. The historical aspects of that period are neatly woven into the plot, such that we learn of the reasons for the First Anglo-Afghan War, its political implications, and the horrendous massacre during the withdrawal, at the hands of the Afghans, of thousands of British troops and many more civilians. Retired history professor Czech’s detailed knowledge of that area, the tribes and their customs, and the barren lands show in the narrative. While numerous coincidences abound that require suspension of disbelief, it is the strong cast of characters’ skills, strengths and weaknesses, and values that make the storyline flow. An interesting and informative read. Highly recommended.