Another great review of The Poisoned Pawn (Vancouver Sun)

Cheryl Parker, who reviewed The Beggar’s Opera for the Vancouver Sun last year is back with a review of the second in the Inspector Ramirez series. And she likes it! Here are the highlights of what she had to say – you can read the entire review here.


Cuban, Canadian cops team up to try to checkmate a killer in Peggy Blair’s The Poisoned Pawn

Two crime novels. Two resounding successes.

In The Poisoned Pawn, Canadian writer and lawyer Peggy Blair proves her debut novel, The Beggar’s Opera, acclaimed by readers and critics alike, was much, much more than beginner’s luck. Her second novel, again featuring Inspector Ricardo Ramirez, whose detecting skills are equally adept in sweat-soaked Havana and bone-chilling Ottawa, begins by backtracking into the plot of The Beggar’s Opera.

When last heard from, the volatile, beautiful, adulterous Hillary Ellis was storming away from her husband, detective Mike Ellis, on the Malecon in Havana and heading home for Ottawa. By the time her plane lands, she’s in a coma; within days, she’s dead. …

Ramirez, sent to Ottawa to bring back a Roman Catholic priest caught with a computer stuffed with pornographic images of young Cuban boys, links up with police in Ottawa to investigate Hillary Ellis’s death, plus those of two other women found dead in Havana… With the Canadian government on the verge of warning tourists against travelling to Cuba because of the deaths, extra pressure is put on Ramirez and the Canadian cops to solve the murders quickly.

Blair intelligently draws parallels between the poverty plaguing Cubans and the woebegone conditions for Canadian aboriginals. Homicide detective Charlie Pike in Ottawa, another of Blair’s strong characters and native himself, has much in common with Ramirez in his connections with the past and his compassion for those enduring the present.

… In The Poisoned Pawn (the title comes from a move in chess), Blair moves her characters from autopsy rooms (which Ramirez’s ghosts refuse to enter) to the offices of the powerful, and her themes from geopolitics to depravity.

… Blair’s prose is evocative, nary a word amiss, whether she’s describing what a treasured gift a bar of hotel soap will be for Ramirez’s wife (he has no money to buy any Canadian souvenirs), the icy grip of an Ottawa winter or a Cuban orphanage.

In the end, the pawns make risky moves in their quest for justice, even when the game appears to be beyond their control.

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