Book Review of The Beggar’s Opera by Brian French

I’m posting this review because Brian has been travelling back and forth to Cuba for two decades (he’s written a spy thriller set in Cuba called Mojito) and I greatly value his opinion on all things Cuba. (I should point out that he was an early external reader, and is named in the Acknowledgements to the book.) Thanks for this, Brian!

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Peggy Blair manages to weave together the complications of existing in the last outpost of communism with a terrifically engaging murder mystery that is impossible to put down.

Inspector Ricardo Ramirez of the Major Crimes Unit of Cuba’s PNR (National Revolutionary Police) is helped as well as worried by ghosts that intrude in his investigative activities. When an eight year old boy is found raped and murdered at Havana’s sea-wall he gets pointed to a suspect – a Canadian police detective – who seems to be both too guilty and too unlikely. And the more he looks at the evidence the more its weaknesses are revealed.

When Celia Jones is sent from Canada by the suspect’s Police Chief boss to act as the suspect’s lawyer she quickly finds flaws in the remaining evidence and causes Ramirez to follow entirely new lines of investigation.

As a terrific mystery should, The Beggar’s Opera unfolds with a melange of tension, fast action, crisis after crisis and twist after twist. Just when you think someone is off the hook, they get pulled back on.

I know Cuba well from travelling there regularly for almost two decades and have written a book about it. And Author Blair captures all of Cuba’s complications. The Castros’ Communist Cuba is not evil as much as it’s incompetent. But somehow, its people are able to make things that are broken — and don’t work — function; at least in a form.

This book is for anyone who likes strong characters written into an engaging plot in an exotic location AND has the next day and a half free to read it…

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