This historical crime novel (285 pages) was published in May of 2009 by Bitter Lemon Press. The book takes you to steamy Cuba. Melissa read Havana Fever and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.
Our hero Mario Conde is a retired policeman and now makes his living in the much more civilized world of antiquarian books. He spends his days ferreting out fine book collections, paying a fair price to people who desperately need it, and then reselling the books for a tidy profit.
One day, as Mario flips through a volume in a vast library of valuable books, he finds a faded newspaper clipping about a 1950s bolero singer, the alluringly named Violeta del Rio. She disappeared under mysterious circumstances decades ago, and, against all reason, Mario becomes obsessed with finding the truth. What happened to her? What’s her connection to this library? And just how was Mario’s father involved? ‘I won’t fail to find out what happened to Violeta del Rio,’ he tells his friends. ‘I want to find out why history swallowed her up.’
Following his hunches, and wandering into places he definitely should not go, Mario’s investigation takes him through the neighborhoods of modern Havana and deep into its glamorous past — to the time of all-night dancing and nonstop casinos, when movie stars shared cocktails and cigarettes with gangsters, and knowing the wrong secret could be deadly.
Hot, steamy, and sometimes a little melancholy, this story is drenched in boozy atmosphere. Author Leonardo Padura was born in Havana and was an investigative journalist before turning his talent to fiction. His Cuba pulses on the page with rat-a-tat dialogue and descriptions that will make you hear the music, taste the rum on your tongue, and feel that seductive tingle of danger up the back of your neck.
As soon as the doors to the library slid open, the smell of old paper and hallowed places floating in that mind-blowing room overwhelmed him. In his far-off years as a police detective, Mario Conde had learnt to recognize the physical signs of his situation-saving hunches: he must have been wondering if he’d ever experienced such a powerful flood of sensations. Initially, he was all set to be ruthlessly logical, and tried to persuade himself that it was pure chance he’d come across that shadowy, decaying mansion in El Vedado: an unusual stroke of good fortune for once had deigned to come his way. — Leonardo Padura
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