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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Part biblio-mystery, part tragedy and all brilliant, Padura's follow-up to his Havana Quartet (Havana Gold, etc.) finds Mario Conde 14 years after retiring from the police force pursuing books instead of criminals, acting as a book scout to earn enough for food and drink. His famed intuition leads him to a decrepit mansion, its old and odd inhabitants, and to the most impressive private library ever assembled in Cuba, untouched for 43 years. Stuck in between a book's pages, he discovers a 1960 magazine photo of a sultry singer, Violeta del Río, who disappeared in the 1950s. Conde's curiosity turns to obsession as he tries to unravel Violeta's sad fate. The trail takes Conde into the past when Batista ruled, revolution was near and gangsters like Meyer Lansky oversaw casinos, clubs and brothels. It will also take him into the most dangerous and terrible of Havana's barrios. The glory of Cuba's biblio-history drives this exceptional novel. (May)
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From School Library Journal

Ex-cop Mario Condo supports himself as a bookseller in Havana. When he finds a treasure trove of old valuable volumes in the mansion of a wealthy Cuban who had fled after the fall of Batista, an old newspaper clipping about a missing singer captures his fancy. Things turn ugly when the books' owner is murdered. Padura portrays the dark underbelly of today's Havana with insight and a deep sadness.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 285 pages
  • Publisher: Bitter Lemon Press; Tra edition (May 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1904738362
  • ISBN-13: 978-1904738367
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #573,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Leonardo Padura was born in Havana in 1955 and lives there today. A novelist, journalist, and critic, he is the author of several novels, one collection of essays, and a volume of short stories. Leonardo Padura is the most internationally successful Cuban novelist of the revolutionary era and responsible for renovating the Cuban detective narrative in the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union.His Havana series crime novels featuring the detective Mario Conde, published in English by Bitter Lemon Press, have been translated into many languages and have won literary prizes around the world. In January 2014 his historical novel about Trotsky's assassin, The Man Who Loved Dogs, will be published in English.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Charlie Stella on May 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
Mario Conde (the Count) has retired from the Police Force (where he was magnificently portrayed in Padura's Havana(s) Blue, Yellow, Red and Black (and Adios Hemingway) ... a humanitarian and one of the common folk first, Conde is a lover of books. He's also a wannabe writer with a love-hate relationship with Ernest Hemingway and the wonderful protagonist of one of Cuba's most prized possessions, Leonardo Padura Fuentes and his Havana series of literary mysteries.

I first met Mario Conde after picking up Havana Blue in a small bookstore in Greenwich Village. What a find. After reading less than half the book, I ordered the remainders and have since read each of them twice. Then, much like the Cuban "Crisis" described in Havana Fever (the ongoing lack of basic necessities), I experienced a drought of Padura until I was recently contacted to review his latest gift to readers everywhere.

And a gift it is. It is now 2003 and Mario Conde is retired from official police work and has gone into the antique book buying/selling business to survive (literally to eat). During one of his daily slogs through the city trying to find books he might buy and then resell to others hawking books, he comes across a literal library of Cuban (and foreign) literary gold. The estate where he finds the library, the people inhabiting it and the history of all that has happened there is brought to life amidst the background of a 1950's mysterious bolero singer (Violeta del Rio), who may or may not have been semi-involved with Conde's father.

Padura reacquaints his readers with Conde's friends, an eclectic cast of characters who also serve as his family.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on May 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
In 2003, over a decade since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cubans, having lost its Russian subsidy, most live in abject poverty. In that environs, Mario Conde left the police department over fourteen years ago to follow a dream though he knows the state of the economy could sink his efforts to become a successful antiquarian book dealer. He loves looking at book treasures in personal libraries although he feels for the family forced to avoid starvation.

He visits a dilapidated mansion that is home to starving siblings who must sell books they probably do not own; as the former wealthy patron most likely fled over decades ago to Florida. Conde is excited by the historical collection and tenderly looks at each volume. Inside one of the books, he finds a cut out of the Battista era bolero singer Violeta del Rio, which to his shock seems to possess Conde with a thirst to know the truth. Though warned to ignore his obsession, unable to resist, he needs to learn whether she killed herself in the 1950s as reported and how she is connected to the impoverished family who owns the collection. His inquiry takes an ironic lethal spin when one his hosts is murdered and the police suspect Conde.

The latest Conde Havana investigative tale is a great entry in an excellent series. Although no longer a cop trying to bring justice in the corrupt Castro Communist Cuba as he did in his colorful four police procedurals, Conde cannot stop himself from applying those skills. Besides leading to a modern day homicide and threats to his life, the key to this terrific story line is a contrast between pre and post Fidel with the populace coming full circle back into abject poverty (as if the Castro years never happened; similar to the stock market and the Bush era).

Harriet Klausner
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I set out to purchase the original Spanish version , but could not get it and had to settle for the English version. Much is lost in the translation, although the translator did a good job.
What I did like is the way in which the author manages to describe the present situation of decay and corruption in Cuba (Havana) and weave this within the drama of the novel.
Mr. Padura is a very gifted novelist
M. Garcia
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