" Divine Punishment is on the way". This was the message received in my mobile phone the other day.
Agatha Christie detective novel with mystery and suspense till the very end, but with an authentic Central American feel. Once I started, I could not stop till I finished the 500 plus pages book. The novel is based on a real life story of murders which took place in the 1930s in Nicaragua during the time of the Somoza, the military strongman who was controlling the government, before becoming a full fledged dictator. Ramirez had done thorough research of the case before fictionalizing what had happened and letting his imagination run.
The author gives an insight into the political and social situation of Nicaragua and Central America in the first part of the last century. The US, which had invaded and occupied Nicaragua from 1912 to 1933 had just left, paving the way for the military dictatorship of Somoza. The National Guards trained by the US had started calling the shots, running roughshod over the judiciary and democratic institutions. Ramirez has used many colors and shades to paint the complex personality of the protagonist Castaneda who is a Casanova-like charmer who seduces women with a vast repertoire of jokes, wit and playfulness. At the same time, he is a sociopath who executes his criminal intentions with evil machinations, cruel pranks and ruthless manipulations. The readers are amazed by the ingenious way in which Castaneda plans the poisoning and influences the doctors as well as family and friends making them believe that the deaths were caused by blackwater fever. Ramirez has given vivid, colorful and humorous descriptions of the characters of journalists, doctors, businessmen, domestic servants, clergy and police. The way Ramirez portrays the people in his book reminds me of such memorable and lively characters I found in the novels of the Brazilian writer Jorge Amado.