Love how this reviewer recognizes that The Poisoned Pawn is not so much a sequel as the second half of The Beggar’s Opera — which was exactly how I felt when I wrote it! Here is a part of what Literary Treats had to say about the second in the series; you can read the rest of it here. (Spoiler alert: she liked TBO better!)
Talk about a timely book! In The Poisoned Pawn, second in Peggy Blair’s Inspector Ramirez series, the Cuban inspector deals with corruption in the Vatican and the injustices faced by aboriginals in Canadian residential schools. Inspector Ramirez is also concerned about his family, with women dying of mysterious causes in Cuba, and Ramirez’s friend and plastic surgeon turned forensic pathologist Hector Apiro restricted by lack of access to the first victim’s records.
Blair’s first book The Beggar’s Opera absolutely captivated me. Inspector Ramirez is a fascinating character — haunted (literally!) by the ghosts of the victims whose crimes he is tasked to solve, worried his sixth sense is a sign of impending death, and above all, an honest man (more or less) who must operate in a corrupt world. While Ramirez sees nothing wrong in lying to suspects during interrogation (“How else will you get them to talk?”), and while he quite openly takes liquor from the evidence room for his staff to enjoy, he also draws the line at taking the cash from the evidence room for himself. He works within the system, yet still maintains a level of idealism in his dogged determination to get to the bottom of the mystery.
I also loved Blair’s depiction of Cuba. Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh and Donna Leon’s Venice reveal the corruption their protagonists have to battle, but in some ways, Blair’s Cuba feels so much more immediate. Perhaps it’s because unlike Rebus, who drowns his sorrow in alcohol, and Brunetti, who is an absolutely upright man, Inspector Ramirez is compromised by and implicated in the corruption. This makes for an interesting dynamic — Ramirez is hardly an anti-hero, but he’s far from a traditional hero either. Rather, he’s all too real, all too human.
Poisoned Pawn takes Inspector Ramirez to Canada, where he must bring home a priest found in possession of pornography depicting Cuban children. … Despite being set mostly in Canada, Poisoned Pawn delves even deeper into Cuban politics and corruption, and reveals how playing within the system rather than fighting it head-on can score a much bigger victory for the good guys.