As the son of the wealthiest man in Mexico, Captain Benjamín Nyman can have it all. And, in the days leading up to the Mexican Revolution of 1910, it seems he does. A commission in the army, a devoted family, and an assured place in society. But the things he wants – his brother’s fiancée Isabel and a chance to fight in the revolution – are things that money cannot buy. His mother firmly supports the current regime and, just as ardently, dislikes Isabel, who she sees as a manipulative fortune hunter. She takes drastic steps to keep Benjamín away from both Isabel and the revolutionaries. He’s not to be put down, though, and sets off on a path that has him questioning family, status, and politics. But one fateful night sets off a series of events that lead to an accusation of murder and imprisonment. Caged, Benjamín thinks back on his life and mistakes. When he’s offered a shot at freedom again, he wonders whether atonement is better found outside or within.
Paradise Misplaced is a beautifully written book set in a time and place I know little about. Shaw’s research into the era is evident. Multi-layered characters move through the lush landscape of Mexican sugar plantations. The story is quiet, complex, and emotional.
My one qualm with Paradise Misplaced is that it was not complete as a novel. It’s the first in a planned trilogy, and many questions and motivations remained unresolved at the end. Despite the mystery plot, this is first and foremost a character-driven story, and I would gladly turn to the next book in the series to reconnect with the same characters, cliffhanger or not. I would have liked to see the mystery aspect wrapped up in a satisfying conclusion.