Literary Review: Magda Allani - Dark Waters - Chronicle Of A Story Untold
Paperback Cover - Dark Waters

Magda Allani

Dark Waters - Chronicle Of A Story Untold

Published by Slow Burn Publications, 2011

ISBN-10: 1908671009

ISBN-13: 978-1908671004

Paperback, 250 pages
Dim: 1.4 x 15 x 22.6 cm

Available in Hard Back and Paperback from:

Slow Burn
Amazon UK
Amazon UK
W.H. Smith

And as Kindle edition from:

Amazon UK

Also available at Muswell Hill Bookshop, and Daunt Books, Marylebone High Street, London.

Date Reviewed:


Dark Waters - Chronicle Of A Story Untold

Published by Slow Burn Publications in 2011, Dark Waters - Chronicle Of A Story Untold by Magda Allani is the only first-hand account of the Marchioness disaster.

The Marchioness was a Thames river pleasure cruiser, filled with a crowd of happy young Oxbridge graduate party-goers celebrating the twenty-sixth birthday of their friend Antonio de Vasconcellos, then one of London's most successful and highest paid financiers, on 19th August, 1989. Magda Allani, one of Vasconcellos' closest friends, was among this crowd.

Twenty minutes after leaving the Embankment, the Marchioness was rammed, run over and sunk in the middle of the Thames and the world seemed to end for those onboard.

Dark Waters is Ms. Allani's gripping and horrifying account of these harrowing events, their equally horrifying immediate and long term aftermath, and of her own near-death experience in the most graphic detail, and of her rescue and survival. It is also the story of how fifty-one young lives tragically came to an abrupt and premature end, and how Allani and a group of friends dealt with this tragedy and its aftermath, and of the still unresolved mystery of the events of that night and beyond.

From its beginning to the open end - for as long as the mysteries surrounding this disaster are not resolved there can be no end as such - this story of the Marchioness is chilling to the bone. No thriller writer, no matter how excellent, could match the chill of Dark Waters. However, there is relief to be found in the - eventual - victory of the human spirit, its capacity to if not entirely overcome perhaps then at least to adjust and cope with whatever life throws its way. This, thankfully, Ms. Allani seems to have accomplished admirably well. To recall these harrowing events and tell their haranguing story is a victory of the human spirit in itself, and one has to admire the author for this alone already.

Popular myths at the time of the Marchioness disaster often dismissed the incident practically as 'unimportant' as it involved 'only' a crowd of 'young rich kid Hoorah Henries,' or a bunch of 'gays and lesbians' (the language was quite offensive at the time, I recall, and bear in mind at the time hostility towards gay people was still much greater than it is today - though it is often still bad enough!), as if somehow such people did not matter. I recall being as horrified at this as the actual events themselves. Is one life really more valuable than another purely on the basis of wealth or sexual orientation? Are we not all just human beings? Fortunately, Dark Waters goes some way also to dispel these ideas and establishes quite clearly that this party crowd was pretty much like any other, with a mix of richer and poorer, gay and heterosexual, good looking and not so good looking, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I am in no way given to being a 'conspiracy theorist.' Frankly, most conspiracy theories tend to be as porous as a sieve. You might be forgiven if at first you would be inclined to dismiss some aspects of Dark Waters as nothing more than conspiracy theory. However, there are too many dark and very murky waters, too many unanswered questions, surrounding the Marchioness affair and indeed Antonio de Vasconcellos to permit this.

Among the many unresolved mysteries is de Vasconcellos himself. Among a very select few to earn an annual salary of the then almost unbelievable sum of one million Pounds, his rise in the City had been meteoric. His ultimate employer was KIO - the Kuwait Investment Office - and shortly before his birthday, de Vasconcellos had confided in Allani that he was on the verge of completing a very huge deal. Days before the party he had also confided being afraid, without specifying what about or what of. This was not long before the first Gulf War, subsequent to which the KIO faced, among others, allegations of having made large political payments during the war. Was there some kind of connection between de Vasconcellos' dealings for the KIO and the imminent events and financial machinations of the first Gulf War? There are enough speculations surrounding the war as is. Israel had felt extremely threatened by Sadam for some time. Was it Zionist shenanigans, in collaboration with the Kuwaitis perhaps, that precipitated the war and made the West fight a war for Israel? (There is no reference to any Israeli/Zionist connection by Allani herself, incidentally.) What could de Vasconcellos' and the KIO's involvement in all this have been? And had he become 'inconvenient,' knew too much perhaps? Friends had also remarked on the appearance of some more than suspicious characters days before the fatal events of 19th/20th August.

Other more than mysterious and indeed suspicious events and circumstances included the very rapid identification of the body of de Vasconcellos after having been the last to have been recovered, the pressure put on Allani to withdraw her description of de Vasconcellos' clothing on the night, and the refusal to let the body be seen. Then, there is the incident itself, on a bright and clear night, and the apparent miscommunication between the dredger Bowbelle's lookout and the bridge, the intake of alcohol by its crew and captain prior to sailing, and how astonishingly quickly and lightly they were let off the hook, as it were. Not forgetting the rapid dropping of a promised public inquiry by then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and the financial connection between the owners of the Bowbelle and the Thatcher family.

Murky enough yet? There certainly seems to be something very rotten in the state of Denmark! Dark Waters stirs up very deep, dark and murky waters indeed, and one has to congratulate, nay admire, Ms. Allani for having had the courage to do so.

Not only all this, but Dark Waters is also superbly well written and makes excellent use of language. It is a story well told, the way only a master storyteller could. Cold sweat or not, I could not put this book with its horrifying story down until I had reached the end. Dark Waters is totally compelling, even compulsive reading and a literary gem, something that is not often found in a non-fiction work.

Magda Allani's Dark Waters is a must-read for anyone interested in truth. Indeed, a must-read, full stop.

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