A legendary “suicide” after the Bre-X gold mine scandal gets a remarkable twist in this suspense tale.
Lenarciak’s (Napoleon’s Eagle Prophecy, 2015, etc.) fifth novel is a variation on his fourth, which also explored the international intrigue surrounding Bre-X geologist Michael de Guzman and his supposed suicide. This one is told as a “dead man’s tale” or an entertaining tall tale—or a confession—over drinks between two men on the fringes of the company whose $6 billion gold fraud scandal rocked 1990s Canada. Bre-X Minerals Ltd. stock had risen astronomically on speculation of unparalleled amounts of gold being mined in Busang, Borneo, then crashed in 1997 when it was discovered that de Guzman had salted the core samples with gold panned from Borneo’s rivers. The novel’s protagonist (the author himself), a mining investor, meets, through Opus Dei in Rome, Akiro Guzzo, a mysterious businessman. The two agree to have lunch in Rome to discuss business, yet as the date approaches, Lenarciak becomes suspicious, realizing that Guzzo’s life story doesn’t add up. When Lenarciak discovers a connection between Guzzo and the Bre-X scandal, the protagonist fears that his life may be in danger from the Mafia at the businessman’s behest, perhaps seeking revenge for fortunes lost. In disguise, Lenarciak hovers in search of enemies, then decides to keep the rendezvous in Rome and ends up hearing from Guzzo a story stranger and more convoluted than any article reported in the press or written by historians. But is it true? Or is de Guzman really dead? This odd, sophisticated mixture of true and revisionist history leaves the reader without any clear sympathies: no one is morally pure, especially not the Roman Catholic Church, yet womanizer de Guzman is as motivated by his desire to provide for his family as by greed. The expository dialogue plods at times but becomes intriguing when Guzzo reveals the interlacing relationships of the Indonesian government, off-shore accounts, illegitimate children, and local politics. The author unnecessarily repeats his back-cover synopsis several times—these references could be cut, as they may frustrate readers before the plot twists finally accumulate.
A slow-moving, sometimes-clumsy thriller that gathers momentum to deliver a rewarding conspiracy theory.