Intellectually speaking, it is a supremely honest approach, but, in the first quarter of the book at least, its sheer worthiness threatens to sink the project. As Leopold compares one conflicting account of Amin’s roots and parentage with another — he was a member of the minority Kakwa ethnic group; his father was probably a policeman, his mother likely an army camp follower with healing skills — the eyes start to glaze. But as the book moves from the hazy territory of childhood into better documented adulthood, the narrative begins to bite.
In the end Leopold’s book succeeds as a meticulous re-examination of Amin’s life, producing a narrative packed with original evidence, and one that strives at all times to be scrupulously well balanced. The surprise is just how much, through Amin, we learn about ourselves and our own relationship with Africa.