I enjoy biographies, I enjoy mysteries, and I love the ever-living-daylights out of literary novels that sort of combine the two. While the book reads like a thoughtful biography of the fictional Nelson and the narrator speaks as if you ought to know what happened to this guy from reading the papers, the reader is left to guess at Nelson's ultimate fate until the last possible moment. And then keep guessing, because it ends with an element of uncertainty. The writing in this regard is brilliant. There is foreshadowing aplenty, but it's never oppressive, and I will be thinking about the ending for a long, long time.
Nelson's story absolutely mesmerized me. My general ignorance of South America was both a help and a hindrance. I was entranced by the beautifully written descriptions of the scenery and life in tiny Andean villages, while at the same time suspecting I was missing a ton of nuance due to my near total unfamiliarity with South American cultures and social climates and history and politics and so forth. Let me tell you, this book is one hell of an education.
Five I'm-not-even-sure-what-I-just-read-but-I-freaking-loved-it stars.