The Devil and Mr Casement, by Jordan Goodman Verso £10.99

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The Independent Culture

Roger Casement is a fascinating character. A British consul famous for his humanitarian work in Africa and Latin America, he was hanged for treason in 1916 after helping to arm Irish revolutionaries against the Crown. (The trial was complicated by a whispering campaign – Casement was rumoured to be homosexual – that did much to turn public sentiment against him.)

Jordan Goodman focuses on Casement's visit to Peru in 1910, where he investigated claims of human-rights abuses committed by rubber-traders working for a British company. He found that indigenous Indians in the remote Putumayo region were being used as slave labour, and tortured or killed if they resisted. His outraged report helped bring the appalling regime to an end.

The Devil and Mr Casement is a fine achievement, offering both a rigorous account of atrocities in the Amazon and a balanced portrait of Casement himself. The Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa's forthcoming novel, The Dream of the Celt, a fictional take on Casement's life, is an intriguing prospect – but this excellent book will be a difficult act to follow.

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