The Mastermind by David Unger

The Mastermind - David Unger

Guillermo Rosensweig didn’t wish to tell his father that he didn’t want to go into the family business when he graduated high school.  Instead, he traveled Europe, attended college, got married, started a family and became a successful financial lawyer in Guatemala.  By all appearances, Guillermo should be a very happy man.  However, Guillermo is never quite satisfied.  He thinks the world is his oyster and he is obsessed with his extramarital infidelities. 


Guillermo takes on a new Lebanese client who runs his own textile factory.  His client has also been selected to serve on the board of a Guatemalan bank.  The client suspects that Guatemala and its banks have done some underhanded loans and wishes Guillermo to take a look.  When the client starts getting threats, Guillermo isn’t sure whether it comes from the direction of the man’s textile dealings or his suspicions about the banking industry.  What he is sure of, is that his client is an honest man.  He’s also sure that he’s fallen in love with his client’s daughter, the beautiful Maryam.


When Guillermo’s wife leaves him, he thinks the door is wide open to spend the rest of his life with Maryam.  But Maryam is married too and her culture is much harsher when it comes to a cheating wife.  When Maryam and her father are assassinated, Guillermo’s life begins to unravel.  He’s lost his family and his lover.  His business is going down the tubes.  He is drinking heavily and becoming more and more depressed.  As his life comes to an end, Guillermo begins to look for some redemption. 


I have to say that I had a tough time liking the first part of the book.  Well, I guess it wasn’t so much the book as it was the main character.  Rosensweig is a despicable guy.  He’s self-centered and shows very little feeling for his wife and family.  His preoccupation with his constant sexual forays made him even more unlikeable.


The second part of the book was much better.  By that time, I had read the blurb inside the cover and realized that the book is based on a true story.  This made what was happening much more intriguing.  Guillermo’s one redeeming quality is that he hates what has happened to his country.  The author, David Unger, paints a good picture of the corruption in Guatemala.  I have no way of knowing if he got close to what Rosensweig’s real-life counterpart must have been like, but it appears that the author has done good research into this story.  He builds it into an intriguing thriller with a fantastical ending.  This is a good piece of historical fiction.


The Mastermind is based on the real life of Guatemalan attorney, Rodrigo Rosenberg.  Rosenberg died in 2009.  He recorded a videotape prior to his death.  In the video, he stated that if he was murdered the President of Guatemala, Álvaro Colom Caballeros, his wife Sandra Torres de Colom, and his private secretary, Gregorio Valdés were directly responsible.   After Rosenberg’s murder, attempts to suppress the video only caused it to go viral.  His murder and the video caused a national uproar, with the President denying the accusations and the public calling for his resignation.  When the United Nations and the FBI launched an investigation into Rosenberg’s claims, they concluded that Rosenberg masterminded his own death.  Yet in a country that is rife with corruption, the truth of whether Mr. Rosenberg actually planned his death, or was murdered, can and has been disputed. 


Those of you who faithfully read my blog know that I just had to look up the real story.  I found the full story along with gruesome pictures of Rosenberg’s body.   I also watched Rosenberg’s video, filmed in Spanish but with English subtitles, and released in two parts on YouTube.


What a bizarre news story this made!  If you’re interested, here are the links to the video:  Part 1 and Part 2


I  want to thank the publisher (Akashic Books) for providing me with an Early Reviewers copy through Librarything for an honest review.