The first Colombian author to receive Seix Barral's celebrated Biblioteca Breve award, Mendoza (Relato de un asesino [Story of an Assassin], Seix Barral, 2001) invents the stories of a poor woman who steals from rich executives, an award-winning painter with psychic powers, and a Catholic priest in crisis with his sacred vows. Initially unrelated, the stories come together through Campo Elias, a Vietnam veteran who massacred dozens in a popular restaurant of Bogot in the mid-1980s and whom Mendoza met in real life. Most Colombian readers who remember the massacre will be able to predict the ending, but this may actually instill a morbid curiosity that will keep them reading. Mendoza departs from the tradition of magic realism and avoids explicit references to Colombia's conflict by focusing on the way the Vietnam war touched the country, and by using the metaphor of Satan to portray Bogot 's sinister landscape. As he switches stories, Mendoza uses different narrative voices and formats, combining erotic accounts, violent dialog, and Campo Elias's bitter diary entries. Unfortunately, these last are purely descriptive and lack any self-critical statements. Other elements in the novel (such as a lesbian affair) seem unnecessary for the plot, suggesting Mendoza's commercial intentions and a tendency to romanticize the ordinary. This entertaining and well-written work is recommended for public libraries and bookstores. Carmen Ospina, "Criticas" Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.