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

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6929-8
    Published: February 2022
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-5351-8
    Published: August 2019
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5886-3
    Published: August 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.


"The book re-explores the Letelier-Moffitt case with new interview-based evidence. It also paints a vivid picture of Chilean-U.S. relations during the Cold War, of Chile’s brutal dictatorship, and highlights some of the workings of Operation Condor, the international surveillance and assassination ring that Pinochet created via the DINA in order to eliminate leftist rivals abroad. Not least, however, Ghosts also highlights the human dimensions of an infamous crime that affected not only the families of the victims, but their colleagues, defenders, and opponents, as well as the prospects for Chile’s future as a democracy."—H-Diplo

“This painful, exciting, and moving tale. . . . pays moving homage to a profound tragedy and to the resilience of a band of people who, over the course of decades, fought and helped to win a measure of justice for their loved ones and for tens of thousands of victims. It is a story that will likely linger with you for a long time.”--North American Congress on Latin America – Report on the Americas

“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

“Justice, and the many obstacles to its attainment, is the unstated theme of Alan McPherson’s Ghosts of Sheridan Circle, a history of a great political crime and its aftermath. . . . To tell this story, Alan McPherson . . . has tempered the dry precision of academic history with stylistic elements borrowed from the true-crime genre: nonfiction storytelling that generates horror, sympathy and suspense.”--Foreign Service Journal

"McPherson’s narrative talent and dramatic material make his book as gripping a read as a good novelist’s murder mystery."--Human Rights Quarterly