A former NPR correspondent chronicles three political murders near the central Philippine city of Himamaylan, where, in the late 1980s, liberation theologists, Communists, and the Philippine army vied for power. The murders occurred in a barrio whose Tagalog name means ""place of the ghosts,"" and it often seems that Berlow is chasing ghosts in his synthesis of some 200 interviews with army officers, priests, and rebel operatives. He focuses on Reynaldo ""Motet"" De los Santos, massacred along with his family by army officers, but why? Moret, like most Negros island peasants, had a hard time making a living; he worked in the sugar fields, did odd jobs for a plantation owner, and indulged his passion for cockfights. He hardly seemed important enough to kill, but he was enthusiastic about the Church's local BCC (Basic Christian Community), and the BCCs were often sympathetic to the Communists. Since the case proved embarrassing for the army, the murder may have been nothing but a brutal mistake. And yet as she was dying, Moret's wife scrawled out the name ""Moroy."" Moroy was a friend of Moret's, but they'd had a falling out, and Moroy was possibly an army informant. The Communists acknowledged killing Moroy; they may also have killed the soldier directly responsible for Moret's death. But were the soldier's and Moret's assassinations political reprisals or mere revenge? Why was so much blood spilled for such small stakes? Berlow explores every nuance of this haunting tale without ever quite nailing it down. But he does offer a vivid portrait of a sad, overpopulated country, divided by class and poverty, still hostage to the legacies of American colonialism and Ferdinand Marcos, and whose patterns of violence and retribution seem unconquerable.