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The Beggar's Opera [Kindle Edition]

Peggy Blair
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $7.99
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

The first volume in the atmospheric and suspenseful Inspector Ramirez series 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...


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Not only does Canadian Blair’s exciting new series take place in contemporary Havana—a slam dunk of a setting for crime fiction—but it also boasts an unusual and unusually intriguing premise: Inspector Ricardo Ramirez, head of Havana’s Major Crimes Unit, sees dead bodies, the ghosts of the victims of his unsolved cases. But this isn’t another paranormal wrinkle in a realistic crime series (like Charles Todd’s Inspector Rutledge novels); no, Ramirez may have inherited something called Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), in which the victim suffers from vivid hallucinations. But he hardly has time to worry about his dead companions at the moment, as a Canadian policeman, Mike Ellis, is being held on suspicion of the rape and murder of a young Cuban boy, and the police have 72 hours to formally charge or release him. Meanwhile, a Canadian lawyer, Celia Jones, arrives to help Ellis negotiate the formidable Cuban bureaucracy. Each of the three major characters could hold up a crime novel on his or her own, and Blair interweaves their stories beautifully; she also invests Havana geography (with its decaying buildings and rusting American cars) with new vigor by focusing not only on photo-worthy street scenes but also on the complex lives of the people who live inside the broken buildings. A fine novel and the launch of what looks to be a superb series. --Bill Ott

Review

“A bang-up whodunit…. Old school or new, the essential test for any mystery novel is that it read downhill, forcing us to keep turning the pages faster as we come to the end. The Beggar’s Opera does this, and adds quirky leads, an exotic setting, and not one, not two, but at least three twists at the end (saving the best for last). It’s a great start for the series.” - Toronto Star

“An impressive debut…. The Cuban setting is treated almost like a character in its own right, emerging gradually and naturally from the narrative, rather than being imposed with lengthy asides or explanations…. Blair exhibits a keen facility with both characterization and narrative development…. the book itself unfolds with an artless ease: the investigation and its developments are both compelling and convincing, a genuinely mysterious mystery that manages to both surprise and maintain its internal integrity…. The Beggar’s Opera is a well-crafted, genuinely satisfying mystery that bodes well for future novels featuring Ricardo Ramirez.” - National Post

“An impressive debut…. The Cuban setting is treated almost like a character in its own right, emerging gradually and naturally from the narrative, rather than being imposed with lengthy asides or explanations…. Blair exhibits a keen facility with both characterization and narrative development…. the book itself unfolds with an artless ease: the investigation and its developments are both compelling and convincing, a genuinely mysterious mystery that manages to both surprise and maintain its internal integrity…. The Beggar’s Opera is a well-crafted, genuinely satisfying mystery that bodes well for future novels featuring Ricardo Ramirez.” - National Post

“The Beggar's Opera pays loving and detailed homage to the unique beauty of the island nation…. There are enough strong characters, dazzling locations and subplots in Blair’s book to sustain more than one season of thrillers…. [Blair’s] gift for detail and colour is breathtaking, almost psychedelic…. a thriller that gives fresh and fair dimension to Havana and Cuban life.” - Winnipeg Free Press

“A splendid fictional debut…. [Blair] delves into the dark side of the sunny island…. Blair’s riveting, gritty tale is so realistic, it may give readers nightmares about landing in legal trouble while in another country.” - The Chronicle-Herald (Halifax)

“A fast-paced, well-plotted mystery…. One can only hope Blair … continues her career as a crime writer as well as she has begun.” - Vancouver Sun

“A bang-up whodunit…. Old school or new, the essential test for any mystery novel is that it read downhill, forcing us to keep turning the pages faster as we come to the end. The Beggar’s Opera does this, and adds quirky leads, an exotic setting, and not one, not two, but at least three twists at the end (saving the best for last). It’s a great start for the series.” - Toronto Star

“The Beggar’s Opera does not disappoint. It’s fast-paced, atmospheric, has unusual characters and delivers surprises right to the final pages.” - Ottawa Citizen

“Blair has created a marvellous cast and a plot that keeps on surprising. Ramirez’s return is awaited.” - The Star-Phoenix (Saskatoon)

“Blair’s Havana is a steamy, twisted locale and her Inspector Ramirez is just the kind of dogged detective you want to root for.” - Robert Rotenberg, bestselling author of Old City Hall

“A riveting story that kept me reading late into the night. Peggy Blair combines masterful writing with a clever plot and an unforgettable journey into the dark heart of Havana.” - D.J. McIntosh, author of The Witch of Babylon

“Impressive…. Blair keeps the tension high even as she paints a comprehensive, sensitively detailed picture…. The Beggar’s Opera was shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association’s Debut Dagger Award, and it’s easy to see why…. Ramirez’s time on earth may be limited by the ticking clock of his dementia, but in the interim, he has more cases to solve, and based on this solid debut, we will be eager to read about them.” - Quill & Quire

“Peggy Blair knows the human costs of crime…. She marries this knowledge to a gripping plot in a great new series kick-off in The Beggar’s Opera. Passion, corruption, danger: it’s a Cuba-set mystery that satisfyingly delivers all the compelling characteristics of its setting.” - Andrew Pyper

“I have a penchant for smart, dark literary crime fiction and The Beggar’s Opera is all of that: an excellent book with a really strong sense of place, excellently drawn, with varied and interesting characters, lovely writing and terrific details.” - Allan Guthrie, author of Two Way Split

“Full of atmosphere. The Beggar’s Opera is a debut novel with a twisted climax, revealing dialogue and astute social observation on how far apart we are from Cuba and yet how close.” - The Hamilton Spectator

“A nuanced account of the struggles of two men to comprehend the sudden and unexpected turns in their complex lives. Blair nicely strings the reader along, casting doubt on what’s real and what’s imaginary, while serving up a tale that combines a penetrating commentary on Cuban life with a whodunit full of twists and turns … readers can look forward to following the further exploits of the enigmatic Cuban police detective.” - The Sherbrooke Record

Product Details

  • File Size: 418 KB
  • Print Length: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Canada (March 19, 2013)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00A6WV7AO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #234,151 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Race Against Time in Old Havana February 13, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
Inspector Ricardo Ramirez can't shake the ghosts which tormented his dead grandmother. They follow him everywhere, sending mute messages from beyond the grave. How can he tell his wife and children that he suffers from the same rising dementia?
"That policeman should be more careful where he stands," Ramirez said to the dead woman sitting at the medical examiner Apiro's desk....She wore a frilly southern-belle dress and a wide white bandana....The several strands of beads around her neck revealed who she was -or rather had been--a follower of Santeria."
As a nation waits for a new era at the end of the punishing embargo, citizens walk a narrow line on ten pesos a month. The tourist hotels and destinations are off limits to Cubans unless they work there. Soap is impossible to buy, and coffee comes with sugar only. To manage to find a chicken for the Christmas holidays is a triumph.
Suddenly Ramirez's holiday goes on hold. Major Crimes has just picked up a vacationing Canadian lawman for the rape and murder of a young Cuban boy. Mike Ellis gave the kid spare change earlier. But he has no memory of the evening. His quarreling wife left him to return to Canada, and he was alone in a bar, drowning his sorrows in too much rum, wandering from the safe tourist paths into the dangerous back alleys of a raw but tempting world. Forensics from his hotel room look bleak for his case. Unless he can find an advocate, he'll soon be in jail at the mercy of hardened criminals who would welcome the chance to teach a lesson to someone on the other side of the law.
Canadians find Cuba a popular winter destination, but the pleasures of mojitos and white sands mask danger for thrill-seekers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
Real, captivating and ultimately moving, The Beggar's Opera by Peggy Blair is a significant addition to the murder mystery genre. It's a poignant and brutally honest story that paints a truly harrowing picture of poverty, abuse, corruption and abominable living conditions in Hemingway's Havana. It's dark, disturbing, thought-provoking, and heart-poundingly thrilling. Not by any means an easy-to-digest book, but one absolutely worth reading nevertheless.

Inspector Ricardo Ramirez is called in to investigate when the body of a little Cuban boy is discovered floating in the ocean in the Caleta de San Lazaro. Drugged, brutally raped and killed with a blow to the head, the boy had last been seen accepting money from a Canadian tourist, Mike Ellis. Witnesses saw Ellis giving the child money, and later on someone made an anonymous phone call to the police station stating that they witnessed a man with his description approaching young boys for sex in Parque Ciudad. A pair of men's briefs had been found in his room - the underwear had the boy's blood on it. Not to mention the polaroid photographs recovered from under the mattress in his hotel room - they were pictures documenting every step of the brutal rape. Mike Ellis has no memory of the previous evening - after the fight with his wife, he spent the night getting drunk at a local bar. It seems Inspector Ramirez has all the evidence he needs to convict the murderer and close the case, but is the case really as obvious as it appears? Or is there more to the story? Is Mike Ellis a cold blooded, vicious murderer, or is someone trying to frame him? With only seventy-two hours to solve the murder case, the race against time begins. Will justice be served?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why the Beggars Opera? April 13, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A book that's difficult to describe and even more difficult to put down with an intricate plot and complex characters. You will be more knowledgeable about Cuba, its culture, and life under Castro when you finish. Do not read anything else for awhile, let the story stay in your head for a bit.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book April 7, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
This is a book full of surprises. I remember feeling a little disappointed when I thought "oh that's it", but it wasn't. It continued to go further and further and things popped up that I didn't see coming. What a treat, particularly since this was a brand new author for me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Havana March 2, 2013
Format:Paperback
I truly liked this book, but found some of the ending predictable though some of it was still a surprise. The surprises were enough to keep me reading and enjoying it. Part of the enjoyment was in the premise that the protagonist, Detective Ricardo Ramirez could see the spirits of dead people, victims whose murders he was to solve. My original interest was prompted by the setting, modern Cuba. Wow, what a setting! The grandeur of old Cuba and the desolation of Cuban life today.A great place to visit, but don't live there. Even visitors can fall afoul of Cuba's onerous laws as befalls Mike Ellis, a Canadian policeman, who finds himself charged with murder. The tension in this novel is the challenge: Ramirez must prove, within 72 hours, that there is enough evidence to indict Ellis while Ellis must prove that he is completely innocent. Cuba it seems has no presumed innocent rules. We get two perspectives to the same investigation, an exciting read in an exotic setting. Close to perfect.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars great insight into the Cuban reality
Great insight into the realities of life in Cuba, along with a good, solidly written mystery, with enough twists and turns to keep even an avid mystery reader engrossed
Published 2 months ago by Kris Paige
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A terrific mystery fun paced story that says so much about Cuba as well.
Published 3 months ago by P. Steele
5.0 out of 5 stars the book feels like Cuba, and the characters seem not only plausible...
A stunning first book in the mystery genre! Set in Havana, the book feels like Cuba, and the characters seem not only plausible but real in all of their strangeness and... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Catherine Tracy
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A good read -- intelligent and engrossing. A good view of a country most of us may never see.
Published 4 months ago by Richard B. Browner
5.0 out of 5 stars The fascinating plot takes place in modern day Cuba, ...
The fascinating plot takes place in modern day Cuba, revealing the struggles of living in a communist country. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Maria L. Martinez
4.0 out of 5 stars ok plot. great ambiance.
The "mystery" plot was above average. The descriptions of modern-day Cuba are outstanding. A lot different than I had thought.
Published 8 months ago by Linda Nauman
5.0 out of 5 stars Kept me guessing
This story kept me intrigued. I love the cross between a crime story as well as the spiritual world. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Lisa RR
4.0 out of 5 stars nice story with interesting viewpoints
The book has a number of references to places and practices in Cuba that might be unknown to Americans. The author also makes clever use of spirituality in the characters.
Published 9 months ago by Richard
4.0 out of 5 stars A gem set in Havana
Finally, a mystery set in Cuba that's great. A police procedural whose main protagonist reminds me of Joseph Skvorecky's remorseful Lt. Read more
Published 10 months ago by wkerby
4.0 out of 5 stars The Beggar's Opera
This is the first Inspector Ricardo Ramirez mystery (also published under the title, "Midnight in Havana") and it begins with the death of his grandmother, when he is only... Read more
Published 12 months ago by S Riaz
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