The Beggar’s Opera hit the US market at the same time that The Poisoned Pawn hit the Canadian market, which means that each book is being promoted in a different country. Because the US market is so much bigger, it’s hard to keep track of what’s going on there. (What I have noticed is that reader reviews on Amazon.com are coming in a whole lot faster than they did on Amazon.ca.)
But I’m happy to say that, so far, although it’s early days, US reviewers seem to like TBO. (Now let’s just hope that translates into sales!) Here’s a recent example from the March edition of the US online publication Shelf Awareness, brought to my attention by my American author pal Lisa Brackmann. Thanks, Lisa!
Peggy Blair’s The Beggar’s Opera, the first in a series featuring Inspector Ricardo Ramirez, is so well plotted it could be her 10th. “The dead will come,” Ramirez’s grandmother tells young Ricardo on her deathbed, “messengers from the other side. Eshu, the orisha, will send them to help you so you can help them. You will be a policeman, Ricky.” Her prediction comes true, but middle-aged Ricardo, now an inspector in charge of the Havana Major Crimes Unit, has just discovered that he is dying from the same illness that killed his grandmother.
Havana is the perfect setting for Blair’s series. Santería, practiced by many Cubans, is a combination of West African, Caribbean and Roman Catholic religions. Orishas are the religion’s saints; Eshu is one of them. His messengers take the form of dead people, ghosts whose cases Ramirez has not yet solved, that only he can see.
Canadian policeman Mike Ellis and his wife arrive for a vacation in Cuba, whereupon his wife announces their marriage is over. Distraught, Mike goes to a bar and what happens after that is anyone’s worst nightmare. He is accused of the rape and murder of a boy who followed the couple earlier asking for money. Pornographic pictures found under the mattress in his hotel room and physical evidence point to him as the killer. The case, naturally, is Ramirez’s.
Mike’s chief in Ottawa sends attorney Celia Jones to save him. This gives Blair license to clue the reader in to Havana’s hardships and make some not-so-sly references to the American embargo. The ensuing revelations are surprising but entirely credible, keeping the reader enthralled right to the end. —Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.
Discover: The beginning of a series starring a police inspector in Havana–a city of corruption, shortages, old cars, music and hope.