Those in Peril. Wilbur Smith/ Macmillan, £18 99.

WILBUR Smith has a great track record for writing powerful novels. Shame about this one.

His topic is, as the publicity claims, as fresh as today’s headlines, and involves the pirates of Somalia who, on a regular basis, hijack everything from tankers to yachts. In this case, a luxury ship is taken and sunk and the daughter of a billionaire held to ransom.

Enter super-hero Hector Cross, a former major in the SAS, who always survives despite all his men dying around him, and heroine Hazel Bannock, a rich and beautiful mother who can give Hector a start on a cross-desert training marathon. The plot and characters are cliché and frequently absurd, but the author almost gets away with it by the pace of the action. Then he is again let down by 1930s dialogue and gratuitous scenes or rape and barbarity. One to miss.