The Tiger’s Prey
“Aurangzeb died two years ago… the Mughal Empire is tearing itself apart,” Ana, a Goanese merchant, informs Tom Courtney, an English trader in Cape Town. Due to the lack of control, Ana suggests increasing trade in India. Tom and his wife, Susan, agree to Ana’s proposal to interfere with the East India Company’s (EIC) trade. They stock a ship with valuables. Then Tom’s nephew, Francis, arrives from England seeking Tom’s head, but instead joins Tom’s crew. Meanwhile, Tom’s estranged brother, Guy—the EIC Governor of Bombay—has a disagreement with his son, Christopher, who absconds. Christopher arrives at the Rani of Chittattinkara’s palace and agrees to train her troops.
Encountering severe storms, Tom’s ship is wrecked on the Chittattinkara coast. He and his crew seek refuge in a nearby EIC fort. Tom and the EIC garrison—led by his brother-in-law—visit the Rani’s palace but are ambushed. Tom struggles back to the fort. The Rani lays a siege, and Tom must not only escape but find Susan, who has vanished, and resolve other family predicaments.
In this 16th offering in the Courtney series, set in the 18th century, Wilbur Smith takes Tom Courtney to settle scores with the EIC, which is headed by his relatives. This interesting tale features the sins of the fathers disrupting the younger generation’s lives. The plot pits brother against brother and cousin against cousin, with fascinating results. The storyline takes readers on an exciting adventure from the Cape of Good Hope through the turbulent Indian Ocean to South India’s lush tropical coast. While the vivid land and sea battle scenes play out as if on screen, the many technical details and jargon keep us attentive: for example, how to use the “club haul” technique to turn a ship around in a storm, or a unique fighting device, the “urumi,” which can subdue even the fiercest assailant.