At nightfall on June 22, 1965, a soldier walked in from the outskirts of a small town in the Dominican Republic and reported that he had just shot and killed two policemen and an outspoken Canadian Catholic priest. It was the opening scene in a mystery that, forty years later, compels J.B. MacKinnon, a nephew of the murdered missionary, to investigate what many believe was a carefully plotted assassination.
MacKinnon's search takes him to corners of the country that are far from the paradise seen by millions of tourist visitors. He meets with former revolutionaries, shadowy generals who live in hiding and the struggling Dominicans for whom the dead priest is a martyr, perhaps even a saint.
Dead Man in Paradise is a true story with the suspense of a classic mystery novel, the immediacy of reportage and the insight of a travelogue. More than any of these, it is a personal examination of one of the gravest challenges of our times: finding a balance between our longing to hold the guilty to account for their crimes and the deep human need to forgive.
"The book is masterful. MacKinnon has the craftsmanship for the challenge. He uses flashback well creates arresting images [and] has enough travel experience to take the bizarre in stride."
"A combination of exceptional English, stylistic elegance, deep thought and subtle perception."
"Dead Man in Paradise...works as travelogue, thriller, and much-needed antidote to the ways in which history is often buried and forgotten."
"Precise, sensuous, personal documentary..."
"One of the most compelling aspects of the book is MacKinnon's nuanced and vivid depiction of contemporary Dominican life."
"As described by Charles Taylor Prize jury, Laurier LaPierre, W.H. New and Jan Walter: 'Part-true-life detective story... and part travelogue through a landscape in political turmoil, Dead Man in Paradise describes an engrossing quest in which the riddles of guilt and innocence, memory and reconciliation, what is revealed and what is withheld lead to an unexpected but thoroughly satisfying conclusion.'"
"Dead Man in Paradise is as much a post-Cold War take on Latin America as it is a personal journey. Best read with a cold beer and a deep breath."
"It's rare that a work of historical non-fiction grabs a reader from page one, but Dead Man in Paradise does exactly that, holding the reader captive as author J.B. MacKinnon embarks on a remarkable journey to investigate a controversial death in the family."
"Dead Man in Paradise is an ambitious work...It aims to go farther than what could be expected of a family memoir, a travel diary or a political history."
"This is a remarkable blend of regret, reflection and ambiguity whose complexity is reminiscent of a Shakespearean character."
"There's an amazing arc in Dead Man...It goes from a fog at the beginning, which is MacKinnon's state of mind, to the process of discovery...to reaching a point where he finds that he can go too far...The whole book is a study in growth, of coming to understand the passion of faith and certainty that existed in the mind of his uncle, and the uncertainty which surrounds the information he is getting."