Peter Mountford's debut novel, "A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism," follows Gabriel de Boya, a young, overeducated freelance writer who lucks into a perfect job with a high-power New York hedge fund. His first assignment is to cover the elections in La Paz, Bolivia, but not as a journalist--the fund wants to know what the president-elect will do with the oil pipeline so they can bet accordingly profit at any expense. All he has to do is get close to the new president without showing his real intentions--especially a press corps that keeps wondering why the new guy isn't publishing anything. When the unexpected happens--Socialist Evo Morales wins the election--Gabriel's position is suddenly more important than his superior expected, and Gabriel's romance with Morales' press secretary gives him a clear advantage. The problem is that he may be falling for her, and for Bolivia.
The novel is set in La Paz in the winter of 2006, before even Gabriel's near-clairvoyant fund manager Priya could predict the upcoming economic collapse. La Paz is a central character of the book, and Mountford's prose teems with detail about the people and places in the bustling mountain city. At 11,000 feet, the city dwarfs the elevation of Denver, and the culture--from daily workers' protests to ski-masked shoe shine boys--is captured in (if you'll pardon the pun) breathtaking detail.
The novel is a latter-day Graham Greene adventure, where a young protagonist in a foreign land becomes deeply embroiled in financial (instead of Greene's political) espionage, and must make decisions that will affect the course of his own life as well as his host nation's. This novel won great reviews, but may have slipped under your radar on its release in May of 2011.
--Mark D., Mid-County Branch