Book review: The Mongolian Conspiracy by Rafael Bernal

A quintessential espionage thriller set in Latin America


Filiberto García is in over his head.  An aging ex-hitman with a filthy mouth, he has three days to prevent a rumoured Mongolian plot to assassinate the President of the United States on his visit to Mexico.  Forced to work with agents from the FBI and KGB, García must cut through international suspicion.  But with bodies piling up and the investigation becoming murkier, he starts to suspect illicit dealings closer to home, and to wonder why the hell he was hired in the first place.


I love a good espionage thriller, and this novel’s Latin American location makes for an excellent backdrop for both the action sequences and quieter moments throughout this book.  The mistrust between the FBI and KGB agents is palpable and epitomises the nature of the Cold War.  Each agent attempts to get García on their side to leave the other agent out in the cold and in the dark in terms of the amount of knowledge they possess.  As a reader, you too become complicit in this cloak and dagger spy ring and you become suspicious of both agents as you assess their honesty.


The action sequences are fast and tense, just as if you are watching a cult classic film, and you are constantly asking yourself the same questions García asks himself: is there really a plot to assassinate the US President?  Or, is it all a subterfuge to disguise a different and perhaps more sinister plot?  Between the action scenes, there are some welcoming quieter moments in which García goes fishing for information – and he’s not very fussy about how he acquires it.  Whilst these conversations are slow in their pace, they are nevertheless important to the plot as they contain crucial pieces of information, which both García and the reader can use to create an overall picture of what’s going on.


García is an amusing character, particularly when his voices filters through into the narrative voice.  Although he is a former hitman and therefore capable of cold and calculated violence, you also see a softer and more human side to him, which is exacerbated all the more because of the nature of his profession.  He is a man who has seen and done so much throughout his life, all for the sake of a service he provides, and that kind of lifestyle leaves its scars for the remainder of his life.  García’s relationship with Marta is very touching because it shows that he is able to feel tender emotions, despite his work.  He simultaneously wants to be Marta’s lover and take care of her as a father would as he rescues her from a life of misery, and it was very heart-warming to see their relationship develop.


The final chapters are very tense as both the reader and García endeavour to get to the bottom of the conspiracy and work out what is actually planned.  Upon discovering this revelation, you begin to suspect everyone besides García, and you can completely understand García’s apathetic attitude at the end of the novel.


Overall, The Mongolian Conspiracy is a quintessential espionage thriller set in Latin America that takes you up and down in its action sequences and emotional moments.  With a protagonist whose dark past contrasts with his warmer side, this is a novel that you will race through in very little time.


Rating: 5/5

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