Review of The Beggar’s Opera in The Chronicle Herald

(reviewed by Joann Alberstat)

“Insp. Ricardo Ramirez of Cuba’s national police force faces a diplomatic quandary when an Ottawa detective is arrested for the rape and murder of a nine-year-old boy on Christmas Eve.

“Mike Ellis can’t remember much when police show up at his hotel because of a bender the previous night. The policeman professes his innocence, even though investigators find evidence linking him to the crime.

“Ottawa lawyer Celia Jones flies to the Cuban capital to figure out whether her client is telling the truth. Ramirez also has doubts that he has caught the culprit because of questions about the evidence against Ellis. But the Cuban officer is distracted by his fight to hide the onset of a fatal disease — one that makes him hallucinate about dead people following him.

“Blair, an Ottawa lawyer and former member of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, makes a splendid fictional debut with the first in the Ramirez series.

“The author delves into the dark side of the sunny island, one where sex tourism and child exploitation lurk behind the facade of crumbling colonial architecture and vibrant culture.

“Ramirez is a hard-working and honest cop who dodges government bureaucracy and a corrupt legal system to do his job, aided by an investigative team that includes a pathologist who’s a dwarf. But the senior investigator isn’t above bending the rules to ensure that justice is served. He’s also a family man who tries desperately to hide his genetic condition from co-workers and loved ones.

“Blair’s riveting, gritty tale is so realistic, it may give readers nightmares about landing in legal trouble while in another country.”

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