Picks and Pans Review: Skeletons on the Zahara

updated 03/29/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/29/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

By Dean King

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This true-life saga reads like a cross between Master and Commander and Lawrence of Arabia—but without the depth or nuance. In 1815 the American merchant brig Commerce wrecks off the west coast of Africa, near what is now called the Sahara, and the captain and crew are enslaved by nomads who face a relentless struggle for food and water. King's tale is heavy on plot but light on character and reflection. The captain is simplistically heroic, the nomads are opaque and cruel. Skeletons has moments of tension and melodrama, but overall it's way too dry.

NONFICTION

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