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by David Unger
Akashic Books, April 2016
252 pages
ISBN: 1617754420

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This novel contains so much background and capable storytelling that readers are likely to be blown away by the rich depths of David Unger's writing. This is a book that pulls no punches. It's based on the true story of Attorney Rodrigo Rosenberg who planned his own assassination, while a YouTube video predicting his own murder placing blame on Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom later appears.

In the case of THE MASTERMIND, liberties have been taken, but the profound nature of the storyline remains. Fueling the ultimate decision to have himself killed are the recent events in Guillermo Rosensweig's life in particular, the deaths of his client and friend Ibrahim and his daughter, Guillermo's lover, Maryam. Preying on his weakness and grief is the mysterious figure of Miguel Paredes, who convinces Guillermo to make his death meaningful.

Before that ultimate decision, however, we get a glimpse into the life and man that Guillermo is, as well as the corrupt and murderous state of Guatemala, where most killings go unsolved for political expediency's sake. Both for the man and the country, every step is one fraught with danger and unhappiness, as well as shifting alliances and political landscapes. In ways that cannot even be imagined, the personal becomes political.

Guillermo's not an easy character to embrace. His failings are many, and yet Unger makes his readers care about the man and the story. Is it possible to be an honest broker in a corrupt failed state like his own? Is it worth paying the ultimate price to help his country? Or does he have no other choice? These questions and many more make this an important book, with layers upon layers of thoughtful prose.

That said, this is a compelling story that can easily be read in a single sitting. And, as in any good mystery, when things go wrong, the novel becomes that much more interesting. Even for readers with no interest in Guatemala per se, this is one worth reading for the sheer joy of the writing itself.

Christine Zibas is a freelance writer and former director of publications for a Chicago nonprofit.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, March 2016

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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