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The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  764 ratings  ·  116 reviews
Bishop Juan Gerardi, Guatemala’s leading human rights activist, was bludgeoned to death in his garage on a Sunday night in 1998, two days after the presentation of a groundbreaking church-sponsored report implicating the military in the murders and disappearances of some two hundred thousand civilians. Realizing that it could not rely on police investigators or the legal s ...more
Hardcover, 396 pages
Published September 10th 2007 by Grove Press (first published 2007)
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Claire Jefferies
Mar 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Three stars isn't really accurate, though. I'd give this one between a 2.5 - 3 for the writing - it felt cumbersome and overwritten (if I were Goldman's editor, red ink would be bleeding through these pages). It's a complicated story-line and Goldman didn't do the best job of narrating in a way that made it any less complicated. He jumped from character to character, story-arc to story-arc, in ways that just made it even more difficult to follow. And holy crap, the characters in this book. He di ...more
Jul 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: central-america
Oscar Romero wasn't the only bishop of the Roman Catholic Church murdered by those most likely working for the entrenched oligarchy in modern Central America. But while Romero was killed while saying Mass in San Salvador, a shocking event that drew headlines around the world, Bishop Juan Gerardi was beaten and left for dead on the floor of his garage. A group of dedicated and courageous young men and women, realizing that the crime would go not only unpunished but would be barely investigated by ...more
Jul 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Be forewarned: "The Art of Political Murder" is a thinking man's page-turner. Although author Frank Goldman's novel has a plot too thick for some readers, that is the point: the nature of crime in Guatemala, especially politically-motivated crime, is complicated and opaque. This is why whodunits are more interesting for their descriptions of the intellectual authors of murders instead of the guy who pulled the trigger. And nothing could ring more true when it concerns murder in Guatemala.

"The A
Apr 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly researched and insightful, this is, by far, the best book that I have read on contemporary Guatemala. Beyond the analysis of the case itself, it is a window into the structures of corruption, deception and power that continue to hold the country hostage to this day.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of reading this account is, for me, walking the streets of Guatemala and seeing some of the most powerful characters represented as leading candidates for the upcoming elections. That the
Kathy Selvaggio
Jul 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
I have really admired this author ever since I read his first novel, The Long Night of the White Chicken. He writes compassionately and intelligently about Guatemala, his mother's homeland, but always with a tremendous sense of the injustice and abuse that has visited that country for far too many years. This book investigates the 1998 murder of one of Guatemala's prominent Catholic bishops, a human rights defender, directly after a report documenting the abuses of the past two decades was publi ...more
The Guatemalan army killed a Catholic bishop in retaliation for his work against the criminal army. Difficult to imagine how to live in such a corrupt country.
Eleanor Cowan
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Author Francisco Goldman's courageous nine year study of the murder of Guatemala's Human Rights Activist Bishop Juan Gerardi shows the refusal of power addicts, terrified of their own vast emptiness, to harness their avarice. This is a detailed study of planned, orchestrated evil made possible only because of the obedient co-operation of the groomed, the passive and the threatened. It's always like that. A strong reminder to me to speak up when I see injustice or abuse - any time, anywhere. Othe ...more
Apr 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
great read and fascinating plot if it were fiction, but a little horrifying reading into the Guatemalan military and justice system and reminding myself that these are true events, crimes, and people. In any case, a well written book!
May 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Very overwritten, as other reviews have said. Offers a decent insight into aspects of recent Guatemalan political history but was really bogged down with unnecessary, confusing detail.
Vince Darcangelo
Sep 12, 2011 rated it liked it

This review originally appeared in the ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS

The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?
Vince Darcangelo, Special to the Rocky

Published September 28, 2007 at midnight

• Nonfiction. By Francisco Goldman. Grove, $25. Grade: A

Book in a nutshell: Guatemala. 1998. Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera, an outspoken critic of the government's history of human rights abuses, is beaten to death inside his church parish house. The murder occurs two da
Mar 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is novelist Francisco Goldman's true crime investigation report of his seven years of interviewing and researching the ever stranger labyrinths at whose center is the murder in 1998 of Guatemalan Human Rights Activist Bishop Juan Gerardi, by bludgeoning, in the garage of his Parish. This comes two days after the Bishop and a group of young secular and Church people called The Untouchables formed by the Church has revealed at a press conference the first two volumes of a four volume report o ...more
Nov 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
one of my top five books. this is such an enveloping story - as good as any fictional mystery, chock full of intrigue and populated with extraordinary characters, but as relevant and as beautifully rendered as any journalism i've read. but more than that, it's the story of a team of sharp, dedicated lawyers and investigators who waded their way through a maelstrom of false leads and threats of violence, took on a deeply-entrenched military kleptocracy and managed to do something unprecedented in ...more
Jenny M
Dec 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
A well-written account of the 1998 assassination of the auxiliary bishop of Guatemala. Thanks to Annie Harnett for recommending it.
Yesenia Marenco
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?
Francisco Goldman

In, “The Art of Political Murder,” (2007) Francisco Goldman heads to Guatemala to unravel the mysterious murder of a Roman Catholic human rights advocate, Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera. This story gives the reader the construction of a crime and opens a door to a misunderstood country that has a history with anarchy. Goldman also provides an unpunctual indictment to ruthless criminals who were not just behind the murder, but also
Hannah Sanders
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop by Fransisco Goldman, published in 2007, is a work of many Guatemalan political ordeals. Bishop Juan Gerardi of the San Sebastián church in Guatemala was murdered in the parish house garage. This book provides detailed information about Guatemalan history including politics, government, and military. I really enjoyed this book because it wasn’t just your typical historical fiction book. They talked about Guatemala’s corrupt presidencies, and a w ...more
Antonio Nunez
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Goldman’s book is one of the best based on on-the-ground reporting I have read. It tells the story of the murder of Guatemala City Auxiliary Bishop Juan José Gerardi in April 1998, two days after the release of the report “Guatemala: Never Again” by the Recovery of Historical Memory Project, which he directed to look into the historic responsibilities for hundreds of thousands of murders during the dirty war that kicked off in 1981 when Efraín Ríos Montt was president and persisted into the mid- ...more
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An incredible work of prose and journalism that takes the chilling murder of Bishop Gerardi and elevates the account above true crime, entering into the psyche of a people. By engaging in individual accounts and the labyrinth of tales people tell themselves and are willing to tell each other a multi-layered, troubling picture arises. The complexity of a society scarred by conflict, conquest, uncertainty, and impunity still manages to bring forth imperfect people willing to fight and troubled peo ...more
Bethsabe Andia
Jun 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book, so well written. It is a report on the murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera (1922-1998) but it has the virtue to really face the corruption and chaotic power in the hands of all military personel and authorities. I am a researcher about Guatemala armed conflict and I have read a lot about this topic, anyway I found in this book new angles to approach to the problem, at the same time I know now the extreme complexity of the case of bishop Gerardi, that after reading it is ...more
Mar 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Extremely detailed, much like Goldman's 7+ part NYer series on 43 disappeared students in Ayotzinapa. Read over a long period of time and thus especially hard to follow. The excerpt in the NYer was an exceptionally interesting read and would suffice for most, though the mystery is not yet solved at its writing. But one is also left wondering if it ever was...
Bharat Krishnan
Mar 13, 2019 rated it liked it
There is some really engaging stuff in here, but ultimately it was way too long and read too much like a news article than a compelling piece of narrative non-fiction.

I learned a lot about Guatemala and the book was gripping at points, so not a total loss by any means. I would have liked to give it 5 stars.
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: catholic, guatemala
Dense and extremely readable. This rounded out my Guatemala reading list, and was a departure from the three books about the wounds of war towards how those resulting scars of war created a new political landscape apart from the war itself. The system was never flushed out, and from what I can tell, it’s still septic. That said, the fact that this book even exists it something.
T.E. Wilson
Dec 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is now somewhat dated, and it's a complicated story, but Goldman does a masterful job of weaving the threads together. A must for anyone interest in Guatemala, or the politics of Latin America, but not sure if it would appeal to a larger readership.
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Heartening and depressing, simultaneously.
The first for the idea that no matter how corrupt, dangerous, and hopeless a country seems, its people can fight for it and bring back justice.
The last because it can always happen here.
May 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, activism
Incredibly detailed, story of a priest who is murdered in Guatemala, and looking into the how & why, esp the why. DNF ...more
Piper Strzelecki
This book describes a very important event and gives a glimpse into the flaws of the Guatemalan justice system. I found it hard to follow because of all the people involved in the case and the fact that the journalism wasn’t exactly chronological
Oct 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding book. A Guatemalan/American novelist/journalist returns to Guatemala to follow the endlessly twisting turns in the case of the murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi. Gerardi was responsible for publishing a lengthy controversial report on what really happened during the Guatemalan civil war. Just two days after his report was published, Gerardi was brutally murdered at the Parish house.

The book reconstructs gradually reconstructs the crime, as the author leads readers through the winding lab
Jul 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book. Francisco Goldman is a beautiful writer and he somehow navigates the lives of many characters and the complicated intertwined interests of the case of Bishop Gerardi's murder, introducing unfamiliar readers to the vast and complex relationships between military, church and state in Guatemala. I learned a lot about Guatemala's recent history through this book, and gained a basic grasp of the interests at stake in the investigation of a case like this one.

I was disappoin
Aug 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is much I can say about this book, but the bottom line is: buy this book and read it. Repeat: buy this book and read it.

The Art of Political Murder is as taut and scary as the best murder thriller-whodunit, and it's all real. It recounts the April, 1998 bludgeoning of Bishop Juan Gerardi at his home in Guatemala City, and the subsequent efforts to find the killers and bring them to justice. But this is not a simple episode of Law and Order; it's a full-bore examination of the ruthless and
Greg Bascom
May 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book details the murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi in Guatemala in April 1998 and the ensuing nine years of investigation and prosecution of persons complicit in the killing. The author, a journalist born in Guatemala but working in New York, also wrote three novels. THE ART OF POLITICAL MURDER reads like, and is as engaging as, a mystery thriller. But the characters, plot, twists, intrigues and horrors were provided by the Guatemalan oligarchy, not the author’s imagination.

The bishop’s murder
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Francisco Goldman is an American novelist, journalist, and 'maestro', at Fundación Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano (FNPI), the journalism school for Latin-America created by Gabriel García Márquez. Goldman is also known as Francisco Goldman Molina, "Frank" and "Paco".

He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to a Guatemalan mother and Jewish-American father. His first novel, The Long Night of White Ch

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