The Congo was at last being set free from Belgium—one of seventeen countries to gain independence in 1960 from ruling European powers. At the helm as prime minister was charismatic nationalist Patrice Lumumba. Just days after the handover, however, the Congo's new army mutinied, Belgian forces intervened, and Lumumba turned to the United Nations for help in saving his newborn nation from what the press was already calling "the Congo crisis." Dag Hammarskjöld, the tidy Swede serving as UN secretary-general, quickly arranged the organization's biggest peacekeeping mission in history. But chaos was still spreading. Frustrated with the fecklessness of the UN and spurned by the United States, Lumumba then approached the Soviets for help—an appeal that set off alarm bells at the CIA. To forestall the spread of Communism in Africa, the CIA sent word to its station chief in the Congo, Larry Devlin: Lumumba had to go. Within a year, everything would unravel. The CIA plot to murder Lumumba would ﬁzzle out, but he would be deposed in a CIA-backed coup, transferred to enemy territory in a CIA-approved operation, and shot dead by Congolese assassins
A new work pulling together the material was overdue. Having trawled through United States and United Nations archives; accessed declassified memos and cables, private letters, and unpublished documents; and interviewed Lumumba’s surviving family members, Reid has brought welcome narrative coherence to a globe-spanning, multilayered story. He manages a difficult balancing act, serving up the detail that will satisfy experts while providing the dramatic tension and character analysis craved by the general reader. Despite the story’s complexity, one’s attention never wanders ... When it comes to drama, Reid had quality ingredients to work with.