Naím, who left his native Venezuela many years ago, turns to historical fiction to pen this sharp, effective indictment of Hugo Chávez and the late tyrant’s brand of authoritarian populism. Readers of political thrillers may intuit early on the resolution of the deadly duel between two opposing spies—a gorgeous female CIA operative and an irresistibly charming male officer in Cuba’s Intelligence Directorate. Operating in worlds populated by corruption and deception, they are among the few characters with any moral fiber; the fast-paced plot turns on the alliance between a money-laundering American evangelist preacher and a Venezuelan criminal who masterminds his illicit syndicates from prison with impunity. This nasty world is not so unlike those Naím has uncovered in his award-winning nonfiction, in which legitimate leaders and private business executives, interlaced with violent Mafias, engage in intricate power struggles and some civil society leaders can be as hypocritical as the politicians they decry. In his acknowledgments, Naím reasserts his faith that his “wonderful country” will recover. But from the deep abyss depicted in his novel, it is difficult to perceive the green shoots of a reborn Venezuela.