Michael Kitchen's excellent voice comes to embody the gin and rain-sodden cheer that epitomized the late British Empire in the tropics. The novel's hero, Scobie, is a police official who has conflated duty with love and who doesn't get much pleasure out of either. We have the fevers, corruption, even a war, but because this is Graham Greene writing, the real damage below the water line is not done by the U-boat, but by our hero's own character. Kitchen does the Brits, the carping wife, the sorrowful mistress, locals honest and locals who lie like rugs. Everyone speaks politely, precisely, incessantly, and yet it seems not to matter at all. This road goes right to hell.
The Heart of the Matter is not a mystery, a high-octane adventure, nor does it center on an extraordinary event. Rather it is a story of one man whose faith and character is put to the ultimate test. That man is Henry Scobie.
Henry Scobie is a British assistant police comissioner stationed in a West African coastal town during World War II. Scobie is a devout catholic who is unhappily married but feels obligated to fulfill his wife Louise's needs and make her happy. An honest man, Scobie has remained faithful to his wife in their fifteen years of marriage and has upheld his duties as an officer of the law. But when Louise decides to get away for a while because she does not like the town they are in, Scobie's beliefs and convictions get challenged and he fails to measure up to the man he thought he was. He winds up falling in love with a nineteen-year old girl and during the affair he feels torn over his desire to be with her yet continue to keep his wife happy and to honor God. At the same time his work also suffers, as he begins to do business with some unscrupulous characters. His good reputation and sense of self-worth deteriorates day by day. Distraught and at the end of his rope, Scobie takes extreme measures to overcome his conflicts and the story wraps up with a shocking conclusion that leaves the reader with plenty to ponder. (the second and third paragraphs are taken from Christine Lynn Jones' review of the book on www. amazon. com)