Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This book appealed to me from the outset and I wasn’t disappointed. It started well, full of action, with a North Sea naval engagement between a British Navy destroyer and a German warship during WW1.
However, that was merely the prelude to a plot involving espionage and many skirmishes in the heart of Africa.
A young British Naval Lieutenant, John Braithwaite, is one of the few survivors from the sinking of his destroyer in the North Sea. He is still wounded and unfit for sea duty when summoned to the clandestine Room 40 in London’s Admiralty. It is the office of the British Navy’s Director of Naval Intelligence, “Blinker’ Hall.
Hall is aware of Braithwaite’s ability to speak fluent German and his familiarity with East Africa. He is the perfect man to infiltrate that part of the world to find out why the German warship, the ‘Aachen,’ is successfully and ruthlessly raiding allied shipping off the east coast of Africa then mysteriously disappearing. Do the Germans have a secret unknown to the British?
Our hero in the form of Braithwaite sets sail for Africa where he meets, by prior arrangement, a British spy codenamed Minstrel. These two are helped by Sgt. Major Patel, an Indian soldier, and ally of the British.
Braithwaite firstly tricks his way on to the ‘Aachen’ while it refuels in Dar-Es-Salaam. He discovers some charts which leads to a perilous inland expedition to Lake Nayasa up the Zambezi River on board a native-crewed river boat called the Zambezi Belle. The trip and their return is once more action all the way. It was this part of the story that so reminded me of the old movie. ‘The African Queen,’ starring Humphrey Bogart. That’s not a bad thing! [Note: the author does reference this movie and the book of the same name by C.S. Forester in his afternotes]. See The African Queen
Genesis of Antimony is a cracking good read and highly recommended.
I only had a few criticisms and they were to do with the “oddity” of the language in the book. Firstly, the author is American and uses American English throughout which did seem a little weird given the ‘Britishness’ of the content. Stranger still, and quite incongruously, was his use of the word ‘queue” in his afternote. He was describing his inspiration for this novel when “in the queue for a ride in Disneyland,” and not ‘in the line,” or “in line.”
Secondly his use of “concur” or “concurrence” was strange. What on earth is wrong with agree or agreement? Then he moved from “nodding in concurrence,” which correctly matches a head movement signifying agreement. to “shook heads in concurrence.” What! A nod of the head is agreement. A shake is the opposite.
Apart from these minor stylistic irritations, I really liked this book.