Robert Edric, Author . St. Martin's/Dunne $24.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-312-28888-4

British writer Edric (The Broken Lands) stakes a claim in Joseph Conrad territory with this haunting novel set in the late 19th century in the Belgian Congo, where the concession-holding British have mined the land to exhaustion with little regard for the starving indigenous population. The story is told through the eyes of James Frasier, an English mapmaker, whose friend, Nicholas Frere, is accused of murdering a young African girl. Frere, a British engineer, languishes in filthy jails, offering neither response nor defense. The case draws the attention of the European public, which is just beginning to open its eyes to the abuses of power in colonial Africa. Frasier is unable to understand how Frere, whom he knows to be a good man, could have been guilty. He is certain there is more to the case than anyone realizes, yet he's unprepared for the horrifying truth behind the murder or for the explosion of killing that follows its revelation. Other characters in this desolate outpost include Father Klein, a sadomasochistic and faithless preacher, whose followers include two native women, Perpetua and Felicity, despite his cruelty; and Hammad, a powerful, cynical Muslim native, who deals in the slave trade as British authorities look the other way. Edric's coldly unadorned style allows the historical facts to speak for themselves; the corruption of the colonial administration is spotlighted all the more. There are no pretty characters or easy lessons here, but the book paints a memorable picture of this ravaged stretch of jungle and the misery of the people—both European and African—who inhabited it at the height of the European empires. (Nov. 1)

Reviewed on: 10/28/2002
Release date: 11/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 351 pages - 978-0-552-99925-0
Paperback - 978-1-86230-097-2
Open Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-4668-6322-4
Open Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-4481-1004-9
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