I feel a little guilty that it has taken me so long to read Murder in Samarkand, Craig Murray's memoir about his time as British ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002-2004. Craig kindly sent me a copy after coming across my blog late last year, but I had to psyche myself up to be able to read something so detailed (lots of facts & figures) and harrowing, and I stopped and started several times. He exposes the chilling truth of President Islam Karimov's regime in Uzbekistan (where so-called Islamic dissidents have been boiled to death), a regime funded by the USA - in exchange, they were getting intelligence, and an airbase in Khanabad (now closed, they were evicted) from which they could carry out operations in Afghanistan after 9/11. It didn't matter that people were being boiled, Uzbekistan was now a cosy ally in the War on Terror. At this time, the invasion of Iraq was unfolding (somehow, Saddam was a bad guy yet Karimov was a good guy). It's not just the 'dissident' torture in Uzbekistan that horrifies, day to day life is grim. Uzbek children are forced by the state to work seventy hour weeks in the cotton fields in appalling conditions. Women set fire to themselves with cooking oil to escape their terrible lives. Innocent people are routinely beaten and raped by the police. The double standards and myopia of the British government in all of this is nausea-inducing. Craig couldn't turn a blind eye to this sickening abuse of human rights - as our government appeared to be able to do without conscience - and was sacked after he blew the whistle on Uzbek intelligence being gained through torture. It's depressing reading, but his style is light, he is funny and self-deprecating - at one point he irons a crumpled speech. One of my favourite lines is: The British Foreign Office sees no distinction between diplomacy and brown nosing. Like all heroes, Craig Murray is flawed - he is disarmingly honest about his love of women - half the women in the book are described as pretty or gorgeous, and I felt increasingly sad for Fiona, his now ex-wife, who ends the marriage when he falls in love with beautiful Nadira. Still, Craig comes across as being immensely likeable and fiercely intelligent, if a little dishevelled at times. I could have cried with rage and frustration at the way the Foreign Office treated him, trumping up charges against him that caused him a breakdown (he was on suicide watch at one point) and finally cost him his diplomatic career. Even when the allegations were found to be empty, they still contrived to get rid of him. Yet the world would surely be a better place if there were more ambassadors like him. My one quibble is his claim about kilts: It is of course a truth universally acknowledged that no woman can resist flirting with a man in a kilt. I understand the book is being filmed by Michael Winterbottom. That will be a must-see. If you haven't already read Murder in Samarkand, I urge you to do so.