For an alternative history novel to succeed the author must not only convince readers that his version of what happened at Dunkirk and its aftermath could happen, he has to convince us that it did happen. Guy Saville managed this admirably.
From the moment Burton Cole, a mercenary with a strong moral sense, sets foot in German Afrika we get a sense of how the continent has been divided, with Britain turning a blind eye to what the Nazis are doing in order to maintain peace and keep what remained of the Empire. Cole's nemesis, Walter Hochburg, has turned the continent into his own diabolical domain. Sent to assassinate him, Cole and his group soon realise they have been set up. What follows is a life and death chase across the Nazi controlled jungle.
Saville's handling of the chase, capture, escape and recapture is well handled. The violence is difficult in places, making it a far from a comfortable read, but it is never gratuitous. The characters, although all larger than life, are credible and well drawn. In my view, the only exception to this is Madeleine, Cole's love interest. I felt at times that their relationship needed fleshing out to add credence to Cole's declarations and inner thoughts. She played too small a part considering the many times her name came up. However, this was a very minor gripe which didn't spoil my enjoyment of the read.
On the subject of love interests, I was pleased to find that Walter Hochburg was capable of his own perverted version of love, which made some of his earlier actions almost understandable, even if still horrific. It takes a good writer to make the reader empathise, even briefly, with a character we know to be essentially evil.
But it is exactly this ability which makes The Afrika Reich more than just an alternative history thriller; it forces us to face elements of racism and brutality that many of us would rather not consider.
I can't wait to find out what happens to Cole and the rest of the characters in the sequel.