In the same straightforward tone with which he relates the fabulous events of his fiction, Colombia's premier novelist presents the chillingly extraordinary events surrounding the 1992 abduction of ten prominent people by the Medellin drug cartel. For anyone who has doubts about where the real war on drugs is taking place, this is a vivid testimony to what Garcia Marquez calls "the biblical holocaust that has been consuming Colombia for more than twenty years." It is a tale featuring real-life heroes, almost comically absurd events, endless terror, and a satisfyingly dramatic ending. Controlling the events is a man we never meet until the very end--the all-powerful and cunningly elusive Pablo Escobar, the head of the Medellin cartel. Fearing extradition to the US and death at the hands of his competitors more than he fears the Colombian government, he takes the hostages (primarily journalists) as pawns as he negotiates his surrender to the security of a specially prepared Colombian prison. Among the extraordinary men negotiating for the hostages' freedom are Alberto Villamizar, a politician who was himself once an assassination target of Escobar's and whose wife, Maruja, and sister, Beatriz, are both hostages; and the elderly Father Garcia Herreros, known for his daily television homilies and celebrity-studded fundraisers. But at the core of the narrative are the daily terrors and tribulations of the hostages, scattered in groups of two and three in different hiding places under the constant watch of Escobar's young, nihilistic soldiers. Newspaper editor Pacho Santos is chained to his bed at night. Maruja, Beatriz, and the doomed Marina Montoya must share a tiny, dark, airless room with four guards, their trips to the bathroom strictly regulated, their only distraction the television, through which Maruja's daughter, with her own TV show, sends coded messages of support and hope. Garcia Marquez's consummate rendering of this hostage-taking looms as the symbol of an entire country held hostage to invisible yet violently ever-present drug lords.