The Fortune Of The Winczlavs: 1. Vanko 1948

By Van Hamme & Berthet
Publisher: Cinebook
ISBN: 9781800440609

Here’s a book I wasn’t expecting. Cinebook’s English reprints of the popular Largo Winch series are a superbly entertaining read. The concentrate on how a small child, adopted by a wealthy businessman ends up, as a young man, the head of an immensely diverse and prosperous international group of companies. Also written by Van Hamme it’s an entertaining blend of espionage, murder, crime and politics. But The Fortune Of The Winczlavs is not a tale about Largo Winch.

Instead, this is the story behind the fortune that allowed the business empire that Largo inherits to exist. Starting in Montenegro in 1848, it finds twenty-five year old Vanko Winczlav on the run from Ottomon overlords after supporting an insurrection. Tracked to a small village where he’s working as a doctor he’s forced to flee across Europe, and ultimately, the United States. Along the way he gains a companion, Veska, also in need of a new life, who secures their escape.

But Veska is without papers, necessitating that they marry mid-Atlantic in order to gain entrance to New York. Veska is pregnant by the brute of a bar owner where she’s been working and wants Vanko to abort the child – something he’s not willing to do. And so, with every step, Vanko’s life becomes more complicated as he loses a wife, gains a child, falls for another woman, and struggles to make a life for himself in a new land. Each decision seems to generate new problems, and as the years pass those problems begin to haunt him and his growing family. Prosperity and profit seem to go hand in hand with disaster and downfall. But the seeds of the future fortune are there.

As you would hope with a Van Hamme book, nothing is too straight-forward. There are complications, upsets, and twists that keep the reader guessing, and no guarantee that anyone is going to succeed. Weaving in the landmarks of an unfolding history only adds to richness of the tale. Berthet’s art style is completely different to Franco’s on Largo Winch, but his clean lines, and Versaevel’s colouring, complement the setting and the story.

You really can’t go wrong with a Van Hamme book, and this is further proof of that.

And if you liked that: Then you really ought to read Largo Winch. You won’t be disappointed.

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