Book Review Blackthorn Book Tours – Alejandro’s Lie by Bob van Laerhoven


About Alejandro’s Lie

Terreno, 1983, Latin America. After a dictatorship of ten years, the brutal junta, lead by general Pelarón, seems to waver.

Alejandro Juron, guitarist of the famous poet and folk singer Victor Pérez who’s been executed by the junta, is released from the infamous prison “The Last Supper.” The underground resistance wants Alejandro to participate in its fight again. But Alejandro has changed.

Consumed with guilt by the death of his friend Victor, whom he betrayed to his tormentors, Alejandro becomes the unintended center of a web of intrigue that culminates in a catastrophic insurrection, and has to choose between love and escape.

A love story, a thriller and an analysis of the mechanisms that govern a dictatorship, Alejandro’s Lie is a gripping novel about violence, betrayal, resistance, corruption, guilt and love.

My Review

Guitarist and songwriter Alejandro Juron is released from prison after ten years and faces a city alien to him. The slums, the political complexities of a crumbling dictatorship in the fictitious nation of Terreno (resonant of Chile), not even the music makes sense, the thriving local scene he was a part of having given way to American disco.

At home in Terreno’s infamous slum the Pigsty, Alejandro remembers the old days in Victor Perez’s folk-band Aconcagua, and Victor’s wife Lucia. He remembers the night he lost them both after various leftist groups were rounded up into a football stadium on a pretext and then either murdered on the spot or tortured and jailed, and the part he played in their demise. 

The story opens on Alejandro caught up in a street protest in the city, on his observations, recollections and his anguish, and his brief encounter with university secretary and Lucia lookalike Beatriz Candalti. On the same night of the protest, the nefarious paramilitary police raid the pigsty on the pretext of a hunt for communist infiltrators. Killing is casual, the brutality of the regime made plain.

Alejandro sets about reconnecting with whoever is left that is willing to help him leave Terreno, a quest that takes him straight back to Beatriz, precariously divorced and desperate to escape her father and ex-husband’s clutches. Through the lens of Beatriz, Bob van Laerhoven captures the essence of Latin machismo, the way that cultural habit underpins governance at every level and oppresses the powerless at every turn.

The stage is set for a complex political thriller brimming with vile and corrupt characters in a regime majoring in oppression, secrecy and arbitrary curfews as Beatriz risks her life to help Alejandro flee the country. The narrative is sprinkled with excerpts of poetry and song lyrics that capture the mood of the times, the aching for a return to peace and freedom, and capture the inner workings of Alejandro’s tormented soul.

Skilfully told in short, sharp chapters, Alejandro’s Lie is a taut, well-developed and intelligent read. Clean prose, an astute attention to detail, great characterisation and artfully constructed action scenes altogether make for an exemplary thriller. The novel has a cinematic quality to it, all dark streets and gunshots, casual violence and simmering passion. I’m a reader who is easily bored. When I remark that I found Alejandro’s Lie very hard to put down, that’s high praise and sincerely meant.

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