BITTER LEMON, £8.99 Order (free p&p) on 0870 079 8897
Havana Fever, By Leonardo Padura, trans. Peter Bush
Death and detection in 1950s Cuba
Monday 26 January 2009
Overwhelmed by poverty after the collapse of Russian support, Cuba in this novel has record levels of suffering and crime. In Leonardo Padura's mystery, former detective Mario Conde has yielded to a mighty passion and become an antiquarian book dealer, investigating the libraries of collectors now forced to sell treasures. In a still-beautiful decaying mansion guarded by a half-starved brother and sister, he finds a superb assembly of works from Cuban history.
Tucked inside one of the volumes he finds a cutting on the beautiful and mysterious Violeta del Rio, a bolero singer who had a wild success in pre-revolutionary Cuba. The Cuban bolero is powerful, passionate music, with lyrics drawn from the people. The reader will learn about its history, and how its flamboyant singers can age as richly as cognac.
Conde becomes infatuated with Violeta and a mystery surrounding her death. Why should anyone have committed suicide by swallowing cyanide in cough mixture? What was her connection with the aristocrats who owned this library?
His police skills and contacts serve him well as he delves into 1950s Havana, its mobsters, drug-pushers and glamour, a period which still fascinates modern Cuban writers. Present danger looms, however, as Conde learns from an elderly journalist who tried to investigate Violeta's death and suffered a mutilated hand.
Conde gets beaten up. Dionisio, one of the weird guardians of the library, is murdered and some books are stolen. Conde's investigations lead him through ramshackle Havana slums and back to the strange mansion where he makes a horribly gothic discovery – and unmasks the real criminal.
Padura is remarkable among crime writers: he understands that the real job is to dive into the deep wells of obsession, hatred and poverty from which murder springs. Yet, full of atmosphere and descriptions to savour, this is as much a life-affirming tribute to Havana as a fine novel of death and detection.
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
- 2 City traders pay £200 for a quick hangover cure
- 3 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 4 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 5 Ball pool for adults opens in London
Gorillaz Phase 4: Cartoon supergroup is back as new artwork is unveiled
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
As Better Call Saul launches, here are the other spin-off shows we need to see
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
President Putin is a dangerous psychopath - reason is not going to work with him