1868’s War of the Triple Alliance pits little Paraguay against its mighty neighbors Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay—and a freelance killer.
Despite losing almost every battle he’s fought, Paraguay’s delusional dictator Francisco Solano López, egged on by his Parisian mistress Eliza Lynch, continues to wage war. Now he’s reduced to sending young boys, infirm old men and even women to slaughter. Preparing for the inevitable outcome, “La Lynch” commands Ricardo Yotté to take the four trunks full of treasure she’s pillaged from Santa Caterina’s church and hide them for her departure. But someone murders Yotté and leaves him under the church’s belfry for Padre Gregorio to find. Where is the treasure now? And who killed Yotté? The vicious commandante Menenez is ordered from on high to find out. His task sets him against his brother-in-law Salvador, a gentle villager; the padre; and a Brazilian officer hiding in the campos who’s bewitched Salvador’s daughter Xandra. To repopulate the decimated town, the padre has suggested it is the women’s duty to lie with the remaining males. His exhortation, which sets tongues wagging and libidos throbbing, thrusts Xandra into her uncle’s sights and endangers secrets kept by Salvador and Yotté’s two sisters. Fighting off starvation, night-hunting jaguars and the invading Brazilians, an alliance of villagers and determined soldiers win a mostly pyrrhic victory.
Alfieri (City of Silver, 2009) has written an anti-war mystery that compares with the notable fiction of Charles Todd.