In beautiful, crumbling Old Havana, Canadian detective Mike Ellis hopes the sun and sand will help save his troubled marriage. He doesn’t yet know that it’s dead in the water—much like the little Cuban boy last seen begging the Canadian couple for a few pesos on the world famous Malecon. For Inspector Ricardo Ramirez, head of the Major Crimes Unit of the Cuban National Revolutionary Police, finding his prime suspect isn’t a problem—Cuban law is. He has only seventy-two hours to secure an indictment and prevent a vicious killer from leaving the island. But Ramirez also has his own troubles to worry about. He’s dying of the same dementia that killed his grandmother, an incurable disease that makes him see the ghosts of victims of unsolved murders. As he races against time, the dead haunt his every step …
Released: February 7, 2012
Publisher: Penguin Canada
Trade Paperback, 346 pages
Tomorrow’s Tour stop: Wicked Lil Pixie Reviews
The Beggar’s Opera, was for me an interesting blend of elements. With the main suspect in novel being Canadian but having been arrested in Cuba, it took a familiar world and tossed it into the mess of a dictatorship’s less than reputable police system. Through her own first career as a lawyer in Canada and an obvious good amount of research, Peggy Blair makes the contrasts come alive.
Her main character, Ramirez, displays a certain amount of contradicting traits. His inner ruminations show a man of compassion, yet his duty as the lead investigator put him in the position of treating the main suspect as being guilty without access to decent defense. It is the Cuban system though that causes this latter issue. The methods used to prove Ellis’ guilt were archaic to say the least. The coroner used simple blood typing to provide proof as opposed to what we in North America (an maybe even the rest of the world) are accustomed to hearing about, the detailed DNA profiles. This added to the feel of going back in time, when visiting Cuba.
Truly, not only was the entire justice system working in the dark ages, but Blair also brings attention to the restrictions on internet use across the country, the lack of decent food, and more. In an ironic twist, there’s mention of a papal visit and how all of a sudden Castro was able to find thousands of chickens for the visit, where normally, it is years between times when they are available to the citizens for meals. Further ironies abound with the plentiful amounts of coffee and rum discussed through the book versus the fact the meat is a treat to be savoured.
In the end, it was the living conditions of the citizens, particularly the kids, that struck the biggest chord with me. We take so much for granted at times that seeing those less fortunate and hearing their stories really brings things in perspective. Blair does a great job of making these factors relevant to the reader. If you like international suspense, where the outcome isn’t guaranteed right from the beginning, you will enjoy The Beggar’s Opera.
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