Review of The Poisoned Pawn in the Owen Sound Sun Times!

Andrew Armitage reviewed the first in the Inspector Ramirez series last year for the Owen Sound Sun Times, a paper I remember fondly from my days as a negotiator for the Chippewas of Nawash and Saugeen. This can’t can’t be found online (print edition only) but I’m glad that Andrew liked the book and was particularly pleased by the headline! I confess: I had to look up the meaning of “ratiocination.” It means rational, logical and organized thought. Nice! 

(And even though the Sun Times is a small paper, it was a quote from Andrew’s review of The Beggar’s Opera that ended up on the book jacket of the Norwegian translation of the book!)


Read This

What a brutal winter this has been. For the third or fourth time, I’m locked in, this time by a glacier of ice that has settled on the lane for what seems like the rest of winter.

Me worry? Not at all since I had carefully kept a pile of new detective fiction piled on the kitchen table. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Detective fiction is one of the major genres of published entertainment and has been for several centuries, dating back at least to Voltaire’s Zadig (1748). Every year, at least in the western world, some 10,000 detective or crime novels are published. There are even columnists who review nothing but whodunits.

A year or two ago, I reviewed Peggy Blair’s The Beggar’s Opera, a delicious bit of ratiocination set in Cuba. Inspector Ricardo Ramirez returns this winter in The Poisoned Pawn (Penguin, $22). Blair, an Ottawa lawyer for more than 30 years and the winner of the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize Readers’ Choice Contest, has found a winner in crumbling old Havana with Ramirez, a man haunted both by his country and unsolved crimes.

This time around, Ricardo is dispatched to Canada after being instructed to bring home a priest whose collection of child pornography depicts Cuban kids. Then there is poor Ramirez who steps off the airplane in Ottawa to be faced with -25 Celsius. “The bitter cold slapped his face, liked the back of a hand. He had not realized, until this minute, that air could be deadly too.”

Meanwhile, back in Cuba, women are dropping dead from some unexplained poison, a definite threat to that county’s blooming tourism industry. Our Cuban detective has only a few days to deal with his Rideau Regional Police Force colleagues and to untangle a web of deceit that stretches all the way to the Vatican.

Fast-paced as this type of fiction should be, it is also filled with detail about that wonderfully decaying country, Cuba. Hopefully, we will hear more of Ricardo Ramirez in the future.

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