The Beggar’s Opera – Book Review in the National Post

I really have to hand it to the National Post. An “Old Book, New Author” column, four guest editor articles  on the Afterword and now this, a brilliant review of The Beggar’s Opera by Robert J. Wiersema.

Talk about support for new authors! And Robert’s written a great review at that. It reads in part:

“The Beggar’s Opera is an impressive debut, and was shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association’s prestigious Debut Dagger Award in 2010. Blair cleverly handles her world-building by using the differing perspectives of Ramirez and Ellis to create a vivid sense of Cuban culture, landscape, traditions and society, from both within and outside. The luxury hotel where Ellis stays, for example, looks different to a Canadian than it does to a Cuban, most of whom are prohibited by law from entry.

“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. Those rare occasions where facts are shoe-horned in are clunky in comparison with the overall smoothness; thankfully, there are very few of those intrusions.

“Blair exhibits a keen facility with both characterization and narrative development. Ramirez and Ellis (and Celia Jones, the lawyer who flies in from Ottawa to shadow Ramirez’s investigation) are well-drawn, consistent in their actions but develop (and reveal themselves) over the course of the novel.

“Similarly, 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.”

Since most of my blog posts have been about the process of writing and getting publishing, I just want to say this about Robert’s only criticism of the book, which is that he thought it was a bit overworked at the end.

I agree with him totally on that. I think it’s a rookie mistake — wanting to tie up things a little too tidily.   I knew I should cut something — my UK agent and I had talked about this quite a lot — but whatever I cut ended up leaving clues hanging in the air, so I finally decided to leave the closing chapters the way they were.

By then, after seventy or so revisions, I was getting tired of the manuscript, so if it comes as off as a little “overworked” by the end, as Robert describes it, it probably was.

No book is perfect, but wow, that’s a very nice review! And much appreciated, coming from such a great author.

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