KILLING THE MANDARIN by Juan Alonso

KILLING THE MANDARIN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Part political thriller, part treatise on the fragility of human interaction, this fine novel from the Argentinean-born Alonso (Althea, 1976, etc., not reviewed) offers a penetrating look into the struggle against oppression, both political and personal. Thirty-three-year-old Jack, circumventing the pandemonium of US politics in 1969, is on a low-impact teaching Fulbright in Uruguay's capital. He idles away the sultry Montevideo summer with Navy man Herb, his covert operations squash partner who has an unsettling store of knowledge regarding South American torture techniques, and with Colin, an Anglo-Argentinean university student whose alienation hints at tragedies and affiliations that prove as mysterious as they are deadly. Into Jack's summer haze comes a letter from Rebecca. The two first met as adolescents on a ship from China, where their parents had been academics abroad. By chance they met again in college, which was the beginning of their faithful correspondence, reaching through the years to the present letter in which Rebecca announces her imminent arrival in Montevideo, a rest stop on her way to Patagonia. The news comes as a relief to Jack as the heat and boredom of daily living, Herb's growing menace on and off the squash court, and Colin's frenzied midnight revelations are proving more than he can bear. Jack begins to perceive Colin's erratic behavior as having an ominous source--he may in fact be marked as a dissident by the police (having been driven from Argentina after being raped by a policeman's nightstick) and, more alarmingly, perhaps as a member of a revolutionary guerilla group specializing in the kidnapping of US officials. When Rebecca arrives, the promise of unrequited passion emerges--as does the prospect of danger when Jack, Colin, and Rebecca suddenly find themselves on the run. With a smart, conversational narrative, Alonso presents an intriguing examination of a revolution's smaller stories. Swift and engaging right to the last.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1995
ISBN: 0595005934
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: New Amsterdam