Dead Man In Paradise

Written by J.B. MacKinnon
Review by Patrika Salmon

This book is the winner of the 2006 Charles Taylor Prize, Canada’s award for the best literary non-fiction. It’s a sad, frustrating read if you care about Central and South America, as it clearly shows the damage done through constant interference by the United States. MacKinnon is the nephew of Father James Arthur MacKinnon, a Catholic missionary priest murdered by government soldiers in the Dominican Republic. Father James was shot during the American occupation of the Republic in 1965 because he spoke out against the terror tactics in his parish.

Growing up with the story, but not the details, which no one seemed to be able to discover, MacKinnon decided find out for himself. The book explains what happens as he travels in the Republic seeking answers. Was his uncle’s death an “orchestrated assassination,” or was it, as the then government insisted, an accidental shooting?

Father James’s story is told in short chapters between MacKinnon’s research and an excellent history of the doomed Republic. In the end MacKinnon arrives at a solution which seems to fit the events as he heard them from everyone and the medical reports of the bullet holes in his uncle’s body. With this he is content, and it satisfied this reader too.