Evil Winds:Michael Shusko
Darfur is the center of this novel or the focal point as we enter this devastated country along with Angie Bryant a news reporter bent on getting the exclusive scoop about what is going on in this war torn city. Throwing caution and safety to the wind she takes risks, chances and places herself and others in danger in order to get the story of a lifetime. But, in the end will it be worth it? Careers like hers can be made with one high profile story but in the end after meeting the terrorist, watching the deaths of the refugees first hand what will her final accounting be? .
Enter the area and meeting with the head named Henry she is greeted and is told they are glad she is there. Rest would help but she seems eager to see the village and question the refugees but first she meets the doctor in charge Jason Russo. Assigned as an NGO doctor and stationed at this refugee camp in eastern Chad, his goal is to help this disease inflicted people to have some semblance of life. Hoping to make a difference and realizing just how committed he is, he finds himself having trouble getting the support he needs to make any difference from government agencies, the UN and anyone in this country.
Taking a tour of the camp she never sees it coming when the Janjaweed soldiers gun down the Darfusian refugees in cold blood, leaving bodies strewn all over. Nothing will ever be the same after this but it gets even more dangerous when we meet the Janjaweed and learn that even they are fighting for power within their own terrorist cells. What is really happening in western Sudan? Why is this assignment so vital to her? What does she hope to accomplish when she makes a rash decision to visit another village that she was warned against even venturing into.
The Janjaweed commander, Hussein is in direct competition with his boss, Towfik and has his own agenda to join another cell thinking that they will form new Islamic Caliphate and become stronger taking over the Sudan. Killing the villagers in Darfur, Chad and other small villages gives them power yet in some cases that take the women and girls selling them and using the boys to work in the mines digging for gold and others to become soldiers and killing machines. Death is their only way out. Deep within the Sahara lies a deadly secret and the more Jason and Angie learn the more deadly it gets. Even getting captured by the terrorists did not stop her from wanting to go further and learn more about the gold mines and save the children that are enslaved there. With the help of Jason’s contacts, his friend Steve who bailed her out of jail along with a young girl from the massacred village, things get even more deadly but Angie won’t stop. Determined to continue even though she is supposed to return to the states, she and Jason and Halima the child from the village forge ahead to see where the mines are and hopefully to save some more lives. But, only two against how many?
Henry Chesterfield told Angie that she would soon learn more about Africa and why it is considered the lost continent and why there are so many war crimes and devastation inflicted on these people. The political instability in the Darfur region of Sudan has spilled over into the country and there is much hate, prejudice and violence in place. Explaining to readers that the Sudanese government has been making the area less stable with its policy of ethnic cleansing. The “Arab dominated government and military were intolerant of the non-Arab African tribes that live in Darfur.”
Meet the terrorists starting with Faris Hannachi hoping to form a strong United Islamic Caliphate yet questioning his master’s wisdom as many of the terrorists try and second guess what those in charge or in power have planned.
The voice and power behind what Hussein and many others believe comes from the self proclaimed khalifah named Abdullah al- Harbi and when you hear his thoughts and this ideas you will have chills within your whole body and cringe at the thought of what he has planned for the people of these villages. Dealing with anyone that tries to lure one of his minions will prove deadly for that person, as you will see first hand. But, there are many who work along with him and are more powerful as you hear the voice of Ying and get to realize that this person is more dangerous. She is powerful and her threats you will learn in time are real and what happens in the long run lets you know that she is not going anywhere and her mode of terror will be widespread.
The harsh realities of what is happening are that most of the men in the villages were killed trying to defend their families during the raids. The Janjaweed kidnaps the boys and force them into the army. Some of the girls are sold as slaves and where they are is anyone’s guess. Jason is explaining this to Angie and how he became apart of this area and the many movements hoping to save lives and make a difference but not everything about him is what it seems. Then she learns about how and what they treat illnesses with including maggots.
The terrorist goes on to explain about the one Islamic community that spanned the globe, without borders all united under the banner of Islam. There have been many khalifah’s that have tried throughout their history and have been successful but no one to unite the faithful in modern times. Abdullah emphatically stated that that the caliphate from the past cannot exist today. Faisal thought he was home free and sated that is vision is righteous and the strategy to achieve a united unnah is solid stating that one nation of the faithful will come under his leadership but what happens next will shock readers.
Meet someone extremely dangerous named Tawfik, who has the ear of many and who is one of the Janjaweed leaders that is angry at Hussein for what he has done. Cleaning up the mess that his men inflicted when he filled four men in France and one of al-Harbi’s emirs created discord. Explaining to him that aligning himself with al-Harbi was an error and that killing his emir in Toulon and convincing the khalifah that his highly mobile, powerful Janjaweed army had a place in executing the grand plan to expand the Islamic Caliphate into North Africa. The explanations continue with descending thoughts and opinions on both sides.
Then many sides are heard but there is much violence still to come. Learning about Jason and who really sent him here is enlightening and more about the tradecraft which tells about the tools and tricks spies us to gather intelligence is quite compelling and enlightening. The author explains through Jason why the Un and the Us and not even the CIA have helped out in supportive way yet the Bandis and extremists are supported by Khartoum and unscrupulous governments that back the corrupt officials there.
The discord and conversations between Tawfik, Hussein and even Abdullah are quite interesting and the fact that Hussein is so powerful and they want to take him out is quite frightening and the fact that he manages to take Angie and Halima in custody thinking he will destroy them is scary to say the least.
Jason and Steve need to come up with a plan to get the children out of the gold mines because Angie refuses to leave without getting Halima’s brother and the others out and to safety. These scenes are filled with violence, action and fear for the reader and the characters as the author brings it to a definite close but we know from the epilogue there is much more to come and don’t count anyone out just yet.
Tarfik with the help of al-Harbi says Hussein is the answer to their problems and will save our people not the bureaucrats in Khartoum and not his foreign friends. Listening to him angered Tarfik as he expounds more about his views about his people and what he explains as babysitters and that his men follow his orders alone. Within pages 166-173 we learn about the gold mines and the dangers that both Jason, Angie and even Halima will face as finding her brother is paramount and if they do what about the others? The author blends many different sects, viewpoints and colorful characters into this plot but the sister and brother as smart, resourceful and teach children that they can fight for their rights but in a way that most will never have to endure. Endings are sometimes beginnings as we find out whether Jason and Angie survive what is next. What happens when they face off with Hussein? What about those that are invisible and want to restore their own power? What about someone that we know little about as we read the final words in the epilogue and learn that there is much more in store for everyone just who remains to be seen. A must read and people need to understand why Africa is called the lost continent and why more needs to be done for the people there.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine