The Death of Rex Nhongo is framed as a thriller, but its primary value (at least to me) is the intimate portrait it paints of Zimbabwe today.
The setting: Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare
Zimbabwe, as you are probably well aware, is a large nation that lies along the northern border of South Africa. It’s also one of the most poverty-stricken countries on earth despite its abundant natural resources. For decades, the country has been ruled by Robert Mugabe, who led its independence movement from the UK. Now 92 years old, Mugabe is rumored to remain as president only to camouflage the corruption and brutality of his colleagues. Many observers consider the regime a “thugocracy.” And that is the picture that emerges in high relief in this novel.
The Death of Rex Nhongo by C. B. George @@@@ (4 out of 5)
The plot: complex and full of surprises
A complex plot lies at the heart of The Death of Rex Nhongo. The complement of principal characters includes two expatriate families, one British, the other American, as well as an extended Zimbabwean family and a thug who works for the Central Intelligence Organization that terrifies the populace. The author skillfully draws together their numerous individual stories in a series of intersections that climax in a satisfying conclusion. The action takes place after the death noted in the book’s title, though the story manages to come full circle in the end. Naturally, the plot is contrived, but it’s a satisfying read.
However, there is one really annoying element in this novel. The author imagines the internal dialogue of the eight-year-old daughter of a highly educated African-American family in what once was called “ebonics.” Extended passages in italics are worded ungrammatically and full of spelling errors. It’s absurd.
The author: unknown
The background in this engaging novel is clearly based on fact, though the story itself is entirely fictitious. The author, C. B. George, is the pen name of someone who “has spent many years working throughout Southern Africa.” He is British and now lives in London.
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