“Accurate and imaginative …amazing plots!” Review of The Poisoned Pawn in The Record

Very nice review in The Kitchener Record!


The Poisoned Pawn, by Peggy Blair (Penguin Canada, 318 pages, $22 softcover, $14.99 Kindle/Kobo). — Those who enjoy detective thrillers will want to add author Peggy Blair and her Inspector Ramirez to their list of favourites.

In her first novel, The Beggar’s Opera, the Ottawa writer introduced us to Inspector Ricardo Ramirez of the Cuban national police major crimes unit and to pathologist Dr. Hector Apiro. She then led the pair through a complicated murder investigation involving a Canadian couple vacationing in Havana.

The Poisoned Pawn picks up from the end of The Beggar’s Opera, but Blair is a skilled writer and someone who has not read the first book will never notice the missing background information. Those who have read it will experience some special treats, such as additional character developments. The cast of characters in both books is almost the same, including the Canadians.

Blair has a doctorate in law from the University of Ottawa, has worked as both a Crown prosecutor and defence lawyer and is a former member of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. At her website she credits the crime writer Ian Rankin of Scotland for helping her to get published.

She has won plaudits for her accurate and imaginative descriptions of Havana and some of its interesting side streets and back alleys. Her books also reveal much about Cuban culture and its roots in African spirituality masked inside Roman Catholicism.

Ramirez, who is sometimes dispatched to Ottawa in his investigations, is not your typical detective; he is sometimes accompanied by the ghosts of murder victims who, though speechless, try to point him in the right direction.

Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for the reader, Ramirez doesn’t recognize these tips until after he solves a crime.

Having lived in Ottawa, I appreciate the accuracy and liveliness of her descriptions of that city when it’s in the grips of January snowstorms and minus 20-degree temperatures.

Blair’s plots are amazing, especially the surprises near the end. Just when it appears that everything has been solved, it turns out that there is more — much, much more — to maintain suspense.

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