It feels like a long time since we heard from Largo Winch, writer Jean Van Hamme and artist Philippe Francq’s billionaire, businessman, adventurer and philanthropist, and part of the reason for that is that Cinebook, who publish the English language versions of the books, no longer have a backlog as they have caught up with the latest French editions.
Each Largo story is told over two books in France where they are up to the twentieth album, hence the title of the second of the new pair – Crossing Paths and 20 Seconds. Given that Cinebook printed their initial Largo publications as two French albums per book that means that, slightly confusingly, they are ‘only’ up to book 16 despite having published them all.
Largo is in London for the meeting of the Board Of Presidents of the W Group at W Tower overlooking HMS Belfast in the Pool Of London. Arriving several days early with his entourage allows him, and them, to catch-up with a myriad of old friends, acquaintances and hangers-on which leads to a variety of situations as the paths of the various characters cross.
Seemingly by chance, at the opening of a sculpture exhibition by his old friend and former lover Domenica Leone, Largo meets the beautiful Saidee, a Lebanese Christian, who is has accidentally been taken in by Domenica and with whom he is immediately besotted. Yet Christian Saidee is actually Muslim Naheed who is in the thrall of a radical Imam who is intending to use her to attack the W Group Board Of Presidents meeting. However a third player soon appears to complicate this as both Western capitalist and Islamist terrorist discover that Saidee / Naheen is missing.
Crossing Paths, in which Van Hamme returns to many characters from previous Largo books, some as main players in the story and others as mere cameos, sets up the story well as the many main characters get caught up in their own strands of the overall plot before they are all pulled together in 20 Seconds, named for the amount of warning the W Group meeting gets of a bomb being secreted in its midst, which builds up the tension to the anticipated explosion.
The whole Saidee / Naheen storyline is well constructed if a little out of character for Largo, who is inevitably always surrounded by beautiful women, to totally fall for one in such a short period of time yet the introduction of a third party in this conspiracy, plus a few red herrings along the way, means that Van Hamme’s plot is as twisty and satisfying as ever.
A foreign artist portraying the UK can be an issue for British readers as even a small detail out of place can help break the flow of the book, yet Philippe Franq has shown before how good he is at (to him) foreign cityscapes and London is no different. In addition he is able to maintain the individualities of a remarkably large cast of characters.
The Largo Winch stories are always big and brash yet thoroughly entertaining with it and the pairing of Crossing Paths and 20 Seconds, helped along by being set in the familiarity of London, is no different.
• There are more details of the English language Largo Winch books at the Cinebook website
• There are more details about all the Largo Winch books at the official Largo Winch website (in French).
• All the downthetubes Largo Winch reviews are here.
• Largo Winch books will be available at Though Bubble in Leeds over the weekend of 5/6 November 2016 where Cinebook will be located in the Royal Armouries Hall.