Antonio Yammara, a law professor meets Ricardo Laverde, who he plays pool with. The time is 1996 and the place is Bogota, Colombia. Yammara knows very little about Laverde except that he may have spent a number of years in prison and that his wife will be arriving soon from the States. Laverde takes Yamarra to a type of library where he can listen to a cassette tape that he recently received. While listening to the tape Laverde gets distraught and leaves the place with Yammara. Outside they are greeted by a hail of bullets. Laverde is killed and Yammara badly wounded.
Recovering as well as he can from his wounds, Yammara is haunted by who Laverde was, what he heard on the tape and why was he shot at. A few years after the shooting he goes to the apartments where Laverde lived for some answers. He meets with Laverde's landlady who happens to have the very tape that Laverde was listening to. The tape gives a clear picture as to what had upset Laverde. Yammara is still extemely curious to learn more. A short time later he receives a call from Laverde's daughter, who wants to talk to him about Laverde's last hours. Yammara agrees to meet with her at a ranch outside of Bogota, leaving his young wife and daughter at home.
The daughter starts telling Yammara all that she knows about her father beginning with a story about Laverde's Granfather and father. She then presents Yammara with letter written between Laverde and his wife Elaine Fritts (she is referred to by Colombians as Elena). Yammar starts to unravel the mystery and get to the answers he sought.
The book has a little bit of background at the beginning into the Pablo Escobar story and how he built an exotic zoo, caused a plane to crash that he suspected had one of his enemies aboard and killed several other promininent people. The majority of the book takes place prior to the Escobar years and instead focuses on the life of Laverde and Elaine. It has several interesting parts but it tended to drag in a lot of places for me, which made it hard for me to give it more than three stars.
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That story is to blame, declares a character in Colombian author Vasquez's latest novel (after The Secret History of Costaguana). Indeed, this book is an exploration of the ways in which stories profoundly impact lives. Around 1996, when murder and bloody mayhem fueled by the drug trade were commonplace in Bogotá, the young law professor Antonio Yammara befriends enigmatic stranger Ricardo Laverde. One night, assassins on motorbikes open fire on the two, killing Laverde and seriously wounding Yammara. Conflicted and at a loss to understand the damage Laverde has wrought, Yammara looks into his life story. Yammara suffers from crippling psychic and physical wounds as a result of the shooting, and his investigation takes him to Laverde's shabby Bogotá apartment, where he receives a gruesome clue from the grieving landlady. Yammara eventually finds Laverde's daughter Maya, a beekeeper who lives in the Colombian countryside. She shows Yammara photos and letters she's collected about the father she never knew. Together they lose themselves in stories of Laverde's childhood; of Maya's American mother, Elaine Fritts; and of Elaine and Laverde's love affair. Vasquez allows the story to become Elaine's, and as the puzzle of Laverde is pieced together, Yammara comes to realize just how thoroughly the stories of these other people are part of his own. Agent: Casanovas & Lynch Agencia Literaria (Spain). (Aug.)