The Autumn Of The Patriarch by Gabriel García Márquez.
Well, this is a rum do, and no mistake. The dictator of an unnamed Central/South American country lies dead in his presidential palace, with cows and goats nibbling at his toes, and the people he has oppressed and terrorised for untold years emerge blinking and trying to decide whether they should laugh or cry.
So far, so straightforward. You'd expect a bit of back-story at this point as well. And you get it, in a strange sort of way, in that you get whisked backwards and forwards through time in a surreal series of snippets demonstrating the madness and brutality of the regime, with no particular pointers as to which event preceded which, or even who the narrator is at any point in time (it shifts around randomly throughout the book from various unnamed participants to the dictator himself and back again).
It's constructed in a very strange way as well; six or seven 30-page chapters, each of which has no paragraph breaks at all and is made up of 3 or 4 massively extended sentences at most. All of which (no doubt entirely deliberately) gives a strange, hallucinatory, stream-of-consciousness feel to the whole thing; on a more practical note it also makes it quite hard to read if you're tired, or to leave and come back to. It's only reading a book like this that you realise how you normally find your place when coming back to a book - you scan through the first few words of each paragraph and find the last one you remember, and then go from there. No such luxuries here.
No-one writing a book about Latin American dictators would be short of real-life inspiration: people like Marcos Pérez Jiménez, Juan Vicente Gómez and Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, as well as examples further afield like Franco (apparently Márquez was living in Barcelona while he was writing the book) provide all the atrocities and abuses of power, and demonstrations of the truth of the maxim about absolute power, that you could want.
It's a less cuddly and accessible read than Márquez 's masterpiece One Hundred Years Of Solitude or Love In The Time Of Cholera; no-one here, even those who do survive long enough to make an impression, is remotely sympathetic, and the stylistic weirdness makes it a pretty relentless experience. But again, no doubt that's the idea. It's powerful and compelling stuff all the same. Just as long as you don't mind tracking back 10 pages to find the start of the sentence every time you come back to it.