Saturday, April 08, 2006

Havana Black by Leonardo Padura

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Leonardo Padura's Havana Red introduced the English-speaking world to Lieutenant Mario Conde, who pursued a baroque concept of police work amid the crumbling riches of Havana. Now, his admired boss has been replaced, his Siamese fighting fish is floating belly-up, and Conde has handed in his resignation, locking himself in to die of "rum and cigar-ettes, grief and bitterness".

He is persuaded to interrupt this bout of anomie to take on an intriguing case. A former minister responsible for confiscating pre-revolutionary art-works has been killed. As well as having his head smashed in, the deceased had been castrated. The victim had been living safely in Miami, so why had he returned to a country where he might have many enemies?

Padura's satisfying narrative delves deep into Conde's world and into the stories of his friends and colleagues. Hanging over the book is an oppressive tension; Cuba is waiting for a hurricane. Conde needs to get his story sorted out before the storm hits - not just the crime, but the fictional narrative at which he bangs away on an old typewriter.

You can find the review here

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