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Ghosts of Sheridan Circle

How a Washington Assassination Brought Pinochet's Terror State to Justice

By Alan McPherson

392 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 24 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-5351-8
    Published: August 2019
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5350-1
    Published: September 2019

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On September 21, 1976, a car bomb killed Orlando Letelier, the former Chilean ambassador to the United States, along with his colleague Ronni Moffitt. The murder shocked the world, especially because of its setting--Sheridan Circle, in the heart of Washington, D.C. Letelier’s widow and her allies immediately suspected the secret police of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who eliminated opponents around the world. Because U.S. political leaders saw the tyrant as a Cold War ally, they failed to warn him against assassinating Letelier and hesitated to blame him afterward. Government investigators and diplomats, however, pledged to find the killers, defying a monstrous, secretive regime. Was justice attainable? Finding out would take nearly two decades.

With interviews from three continents, never-before-used documents, and recently declassified sources that conclude that Pinochet himself ordered the hit and then covered it up, Alan McPherson has produced the definitive history of one of the Cold War’s most consequential assassinations. The Letelier car bomb forever changed counterterrorism, human rights, and democracy. This page-turning real-life political thriller combines a police investigation, diplomatic intrigue, courtroom drama, and survivors’ tales of sorrow and tenacity.

About the Author

Alan McPherson is professor of history at Temple University and the author of The Invaded: How Latin Americans and their Allies Fought and Ended U.S. Occupations.
For more information about Alan McPherson, visit the Author Page.


“An important book about the role of Augusto Pinochet's military government in the 1976 assassination of prominent Chilean opposition leader Orlando Letelier in Washington, DC. . . . A very well-organized and documented account.”--CHOICE

“McPherson leaves no stone unturned to uncover every turn and twist in the unavoidably complicated plot that leads from the explosion to Pinochet.”--Heythrop Journal

“It's highly readable and entirely accessible even if you have no background knowledge of Chile or the general context at all. It is a case of slow-moving justice against petty and murderous terrorists.”--Two Weeks Notice

"Alan McPherson has produced the most compelling account of the Letelier assassination and the long quest for justice that followed. Anyone interested in human rights has to read this book."--Ricardo Lagos, former president of Chile

"Finally we have a definitive account of one of the most spectacular assassinations ever committed on American soil. Characters come vividly alive against the background of international intrigue and murder plotted at the highest levels of government. Ghosts of Sheridan Circle is a political thriller that illuminates a horrific crime, the sinister plot behind it, and the relentless detective work that identified the killers."--Stephen Kinzer, former New York Times correspondent and author of Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq

"McPherson has written an engrossing book about a particularly important moment in the Cold War--one that had a tremendous impact on U.S.-Chilean relations, as well as human rights law more generally."--Gregory Weeks, University of North Carolina, Charlotte