Book Review: The Beggar’s Opera (Paula Schuck)

“The Beggar`s Opera is the book that will reawaken your passion for reading. Peggy Blair hooks the reader fast with a brilliant literary combination of savvy gothic characters, a three dimensional, stunning setting, a dark plot that is always hinting at something more and themes that are relevant and topical.

“This is a book that will speak to so many because of the author’s intuitive response to the world around her and the ways in which she uses her characters to maneuver through some of the greatest contemporary issues we as a society face demographically and politically.

“The Beggar`s Opera begins with a flawed hero Inspector Ricardo Ramirez, who sees ghosts and rationalizes this as a hereditary illness called Lewy Body dementia, same illness that his grandmother suffered from, a particularly harsh dementia that manifests itself with Parkinson’s tremors and hallucinations.

“He is working on Christmas Day when a young boy, brutally sexually assaulted and murdered, begins to haunt him. The same young boy was seen begging on Christmas Eve when a Canadian detective named Mike Ellis was strolling by on vacation with his wife. Ellis becomes suspect number one and, a corrupt Cuban police force, charged with a mandate of holding someone accountable for the depravity, rushes to gather evidence that implicates the Canadian. Meanwhile, a smart Canadian lawyer married to a Cuban races to the rescue, but even she is not entirely convinced of Ellis’s innocence.

“The setting of The Beggar’s Opera is current Havana, a crumbling reminder of a regime and time when Cuba was, at least superficially, a star, on the world stage.

“Blair’s research is stunning and she creates a remarkable atmosphere that is perfect for the story. Her Cuba is an ideal stage for the hints of magic realism that are sprinkled throughout the book.

“I am not sure what startles me more about The Beggar’s Opera, the fact that I was so disenchanted with the books I had been reviewing up until it arrived, or the fact that it might not have been published at all if not for a strange bit of luck and Scottish author Ian Rankin.

“Interestingly, this amazing author was discovered while at a crime writing conference in the U.K. After asking the author Ian Rankin for a photograph, she struck up a conversation and he provided a referral of sorts to an agent. Blair was shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award 2010. This is intended to be the first in  a series of novels featuring Inspector Ramirez.

“With The Beggar’s Opera, Peggy Blair has established herself as a remarkable and talented storyteller. I can’t wait for more.

“This one gets $$$$$ out of $$$$$. Suspense doled out with perfect pace and a wonderful new main character. A joy to read, I never wanted The Beggar’s Opera to end.”

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You can read this, and other reviews by Paula Schuck, here.

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