"The Beggar's Opera" by Peggy Blair
Canadian detective Mike Ellis had hoped that the sun and sand of Old Havana, Cuba would help save his troubled marriage. The scars that adorn his face show that Ellis is carrying a lot of baggage and his wife has had enough of it.
Inspector Ricardo Ramirez, head of the Major Crimes Unit of the Cuban National Revolutionary Police, is a respected, intelligent, hardworking man with a beautiful young family. But he is dying from the same form of dementia that killed his grandmother, one that makes him see the ghosts of victims of unsolved murders.
Ellis and Ramirez's paths cross when a young Cuban boy turns up dead. Inspector Ramirez is investigating the crime when he discovers Ellis' wallet on the young boy. Ramirez has only a few days to build the case against Ellis and as he races against the clock, the case takes twists and turns, taking readers on an incredible journey.
The Beggar's Opera by Peggy Blair is a fantastic, fast-paced mystery set in the beautiful landscape of Castro's Cuba. It is engaging, educational and well-researched, full of danger, intrigue, and surprise. This is a novel that will have you immediately wrapped up, wanting to rush to turn the page to find out what happens next yet wanting to slow down to savour every drop of its beauty and richness.
Cuba comes to life in this book. My husband and I were married in Cuba and it holds a special place in my heart. While we didn't stay in Havana and did more of the "tourist resort thing", there were small glimpses of what life is really like for Cubans that were unsettling and difficult to reconcile with Cuba the holiday destination. Blair's book blows these glimpses wide opens and shows exactly what life is like - the embargo's, the law system, the free education that trains you for a job that isn't available, the police corruption, counting soap and pencils as prized possessions - ways that are totally foreign and incomprehensible to Canadians and North Americans. But for all the problems, this book equally shows the beauty of Cuba, its history and most importantly, the Cuban people and their strength and determination.
And through it all, Blair weaves an incredible mystery, one that paints a shocking picture, a mystery that will have you guessing all the way until the end. In terms of style, I greatly appreciated the short chapters of the book, each one with something dangling at the end, you just want to keep turning the page to find out what happens next. I love a book where there isn't a good spot to put it down! Blair uses a few main characters in the book to give the story different dimensions, showing the case from different viewpoints and this richly adds to the layers of the book.
I personally cannot find fault with this book, it is everything I want my mysteries to be. The only thing more thrilling than this book is the fact that there will be more to come! Not only is this a great mystery read, but it will introduce you to a Cuba you have never known before, the Cuba that very few foreign eyes get to see.