The Shape of the Ruins
Sept. 2018. 528p. ISBN 9780735211148. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780735211162. F

A pair of assassinations of prominent Colombians--General Uribe in 1914 and Liberal politician Gaitán in 1948—prompted cover-up conspiracy theories. The digressive first half of this novel slowly sets up the attempts of Carlos Carballo, a friend of the narrator, who shares the same name as the author, to persuade Vasquez to write about the controversial second assassination. At this point Vasquez switches gears and describes the circumstances of the Uribe assassination in lengthy detail. Only toward the novel’s end are the real motive for Callardo’s obsession and the connection between the two crimes made manifest. Though an extensively researched combination of autobiography, historical novel, detective story and journalism, the latter supported by photographs and reproduction of clippings, the discursive Vasquez never seems quite able to get a handle on his narrative as he bogs the reader down in details and a proliferation of names from Colombian history, many merely introduced with no further elaboration.

VERDICT : Ostensibly this novel will appeal to readers of crime fiction, but they may be turned off by the lack of knowledge of the major players from Colombian history and the speculative, desultory narrative.

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