"...a surreal and violent netherworld where fear rules..."
Lena Muller, daughter of a wealthy Houston businessman, has disappeared in Guatemala. Now, six months later, the private detective her father hired to find her has also disappeared. Then homicide detective Stuart Haydon receives a phone call from Guatemala City. Lena is alive--and in trouble. Thirty years of guerrilla warfare have turned Guatemala into a surreal and violent netherworld where fear rules and people mysteriously disappear without a trace.
When Haydon arrives he is quickly embroiled in the complex mystery of life in Guatemala, and also in the lives of a small coterie of American expatriates who are deeply involved with the corrupt military and an elusive guerrilla faction. Lena's "friends" are all desperately looking for her too. It seems that Lena has unearthed a dirty secret. In Guatemala truth is an endangered concept. Haydon discovers that Lena Muller is not the young woman either he or her parents had thought her to be. And much to his regret, he also learns that it is not only people who disappear in Guatemala--often the border between reality and illusion vanishes as well.
"...the eerie world of los desaparecidos--the disappeared ones--is almost unimaginable."
For years I was active in a human rights organization that concentrated on monitoring the political assassinations that plagued the Central American country of Guatemala. My travels in Guatemala to research this novel based on the political violence in that country turned out to be an experience that was as surreal as any that I am ever likely to have again. For several weeks I daily visited the city's several morgues to keep a personal tab on the bodies brought into the morgues during the previous night. Guatemala's indians were most of the victims, but I also saw European kids who were traveling the country alone or in small groups who also got caught up in the country's violence.
The eerie world of los desaparecidos--the disappeared ones--is almost unimaginable. The elusiveness of "truth" is a theme that I imagine is as old as man's desire to tell stories. I think most of us have to live a good number of years before we really begin to grasp the huge complexities behind such a small word. This is a story about those complexities in the life of a few people in a dark and beautiful country that has a dark and beautiful soul.
Body of Truth was the fifth and last novel to feature Stuart Haydon. It was published in 1992, and won Germany's Bochumer Krimi Archiv award for the best suspense novel of the year.