Tim Jeal is an expert on the subject having written biographies of Livingstone and Stanley and here covers some of the same material.
He updates the celebrated Moorhouse books on the search for the origin of the Nile, bringing in masses of recent research. The characters are an amazing array of adventurers, each risking life in Africa for a variety of reasons. The book is reminiscent of a recent book on Everest: none of the locals had any idea why the outsider white man wanted to carry out this exploration at such cost and risk to life.
Jeal's hero is Stanley. He reinstates Speake at the expense of Burton and presents Livingstone as unsaintlike. None of them seems likeable but immensely courageous and driven.The brutality, racism and snobbery of the time is quite nauseating. Deaths are recorded like the loss of chessmen rather than the extinction of real human lives.
If there is a fault in the book it is perhaps that it tries to cover too much ground, bringing the story up to date in a pacy way but sometimes reading like a history textbook, rather than creating, as it does at its best, a real sense of what this kind of exploration must really have been like.