As some of you have probably noticed, I have been posting a lot of reviews lately, and sometimes they’re reviews of The Poisoned Pawn (the second in the Inspector Ramirez series) and sometimes they’re of The Beggar’s Opera. This is because TBO was released in the US a few weeks ago while The Poisoned Pawn was released in Canada last month, but isn’t yet available in any format in the US. And so essentially, we’re in the middle of two launches. The success of both books will come down to word-of-mouth, and reviews are a big part of that.
I confess that I was pretty worried about the American market and what readers would think of a series set in Cuba. After all, until very recently, it was illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba. Would they have any interest in a country they know nothing about? What about a quirky Cuban detective who sees ghosts?
I’m pleased to say that the early reviews have been great! (Some American bloggers find TBO a little slow at first, which I find interesting, since Canadian readers thought it was fast-paced from the get-go. Cultural differences? Do Canadian readers perhaps like narrative a little more than readers raised on action-packed novels like those of John Grisham? What do you think?)
In any event, here is the most recent review from the Richmond (Virginia) Times Dispatch’s weekend Mystery Round-up! The reviewer calls it a “smart novel,” which is exactly what I set out to write. Enjoy!
Ricardo Ramirez, the police inspector in charge of Havana’s major-crimes unit, is dying of Lewy body dementia. He’s seeing the ghosts of murder victims. And he’s in charge of the investigation into the rape and murder of an 8-year-old boy.
He’s also the lead character in Canadian lawyer Peggy Blair’s debut mystery, “The Beggar’s Opera” (346 pages, Pintail, $16), set during the Christmas holidays of 2006 amid the beauty and squalor of Cuba’s capital city. The chief suspect is Mike Ellis, a troubled police detective from Ottawa.
Readers will find themselves gripped by this smart novel as Blair combines a surprise-filled plot with well-drawn characters and lush details of Cuban life. A heady mix of deprivation and depravity, “The Beggar’s Opera” marks a promising start to a projected series.