Known in Guatemala as "The Crime of the Century," the Bishop Gerardi murder case, with its unexpectedly outlandish scenarios and sensational developments, confounded observers and generated extraordinary controversy.
Goldman gives us the anatomy of a crime while opening a window to a misunderstood neighboring country that is flirting with anarchy. More, he offers an overdue indictment of brutal war criminals who were not just behind the one killing, but also contributed to a generation of atrocities ... Goldman’s intricate and insightful reporting of the crime and the trial recalls that of Gabriel García Márquez in 'News of a Kidnapping' ... Heroically penetrating the thicket of lies and misdirection, Goldman praises Guatemala’s patriots, those who keep doing their thankless jobs in the face of intimidation and worse ... Goldman effectively discounts as propaganda the efforts to absolve Pérez Molina and the military of any responsibility for Gerardi’s murder.
Goldman’s book is described on its jacket as belonging to the genre of ‘true crime’. But that somewhat demeaning classification can’t begin to encompass its scope. He provides not only a measured and compelling account of the murder, its investigation and aftermath, but also a rich and detailed portrait of the country where it happened ... He marshals a phenomenal amount of information – names, dates, acronyms, conflicting accounts of uncertain events – without ever becoming either boring or confusing ... With a diligence possibly inspired by what he saw of ODHA’s methods, he chronicles the many potentially bewildering changes of personnel, life histories, friendships and fallings-out that have a bearing on his story. He isn’t short of impressive set pieces.
Faced with this extraordinary melange of ingredients, Goldman could have been forgiven for slipping into the narrative liberties of magical realism. Instead, he has produced a piece of well-researched non-fiction that explores the political conspiracy to murder Gerardi in detail that seems irrefutable ... The benefit of this approach is that it brings a cool eye to the demented workings of a state in which even street drunks are paid informers. But Goldman's concern to follow every lead and double-check every story only serves to complicate what is already a fiendishly twisted plot ... Perhaps out of a determination to forgo the tricks of fiction, Goldman doesn't offer us a reassuring hero. More likely, there simply wasn't one. In fact, there are few vivid portraits, just sketches of individuals, some less flawed than others, who try to do their jobs ... though Goldman allows himself to intrude in the story here and there, he largely remains an off-stage observer ... With the investigation crawling into its sixth year, I longed for Goldman to step back and show us Guatemala from a different perspective, one unaffected by the crime ... In one of his rare moments of poetic reflection, he writes of an overwhelming sadness that possessed him one day while sitting in his car ... a commendable book that should be a required text for all those with an interest in Guatemalan or Central American politics.