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Monday, August 29, 2016

Fiction Review: Beneficiaries of Deceit by Christopher Hallowell

Like an archaeological dig itself, Beneficiaries of Deceit is a book consisting of carefully excavated layers, with questions that can only be answered with further digging. It's a story that appears to be one thing, but which is actually something else entirely. Christopher Hallowell draws us in deeper with each new revelation, dispersing our outrage across the globe.

The story starts simply enough, with Jake Lambrusco heading deep into the Peruvian jungle in order to make contact with the mysterious Donaldo and discover what's going on with the ruins. We aren't given a lot more background than that, and are actually set up to be rather suspicious of the old Peace Corps volunteer, who comes across as a Heart of Darkness type figure. As the story progress, those suspicions slowly shift from Donaldo to Jake, and then back stateside to the leaders of Cabot College.

Without giving away the twists entailed, the college is floundering - both ethically and financially. On the brink of ruin, with a dark scandal hanging over the head of their would-be savior, the college is counting on Jake to bring back the right kind of answers - but the search for truth doesn't always head in the direction we'd wish.

Beneficiaries of Deceit is a tough read, in that so many of the characters are difficult to trust, much less like. Also, those carefully excavated layers of narrative keep us at arm's length from the truth, with the ultimate revelations about the Peruvian ruins and Cabot College scandal held back until the second half of the book. Even as truths are brought to light, however, a greater pall of darkness falls across the narrative. It's easy to understand the actions of those involved, and to even sympathize with their intentions, but the whole situation is a nearly impenetrable jungle of an ethical nature.

While I wouldn't go so far as to call it a happy ending, the final chapters here are largely satisfying, effectively tying up all the questions, scandals, and doubts. Keep in mind that the only thing more powerful than morals is money, and don't expect any miraculous about-faces, and you'll appreciate where Hallowell leaves the story.

ebook, 260 pages
Published August 23rd 2016 by Christopher Hallowell

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

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