I am a lawyer, realtor, and author living in Ottawa, Canada. I was a defence lawyer and prosecutor, but most of my legal career was spent in Aboriginal law. (I have an LLM and doctorate in Aboriginal law/legal history).
But my Inspector Ramirez mysteries series is set mostly in Havana.
I spent Christmas in Old Havana in 2006. I saw how bored the young police officers were, slouched against lamp posts, waiting for a crime, any crime to occur. I went to astonishing art museums, the book market (hundreds of thousands of used books), cigar and rum factories, artists’ stalls, and, of course, the Malecon.
I visited most of Hemingway’s favourite bars (no easy task — they’re all over the place) and learned how to make the perfect mojito.
Havana is colourful mimes on stilts, elderly cigar ladies, child beggars, feral cats and homeless dogs. It’s gorgeous, collapsing Spanish colonial architecture, crazy anti-George Bush billboards, one of the most educated populations in the world, and everywhere, music. Cuba is communism, extreme shortages and incredible generosity, corruption, inane bureaucracy and genuine kindness.
It is quite possibly the most interesting place I’ve ever been. How could I resist writing about it?
To my enormous surprise and great joy, my debut novel, The Beggar’s Opera, was shortlisted in 2010 for the prestigious Debut Dagger Award of the (UK) Crime Writers Association.
After that, Penguin Canada picked up the world English-language rights in a two book deal). It is available in bookstores across Canada (and as an ebook on Kindle and Kobo) now and was released in trade paperback in the US market in March. The Beggar’s Opera was translated and published in Germany, Norway, the Czech Republic, Israel, and the Netherlands. It was published in the UK as Midnight in Havana and in the U.S. as well, to critical acclaim (see reviews page or the pull quotes in the side bar).
I’m happy to say The Beggar’s Opera won the Giller Prize Reader’s Choice in Canada in 2012 as well as the CBC Bookie Award for Best Mystery/Thriller. It was shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award this year for best first novel.
The second in the series, The Poisoned Pawn, hit the Canadian market in 2013 and Hungry Ghosts, the third in the Ramirez series, was published by Simon and Schuster last year, followed by Umbrella Man in 2016. Both hit the Canadian bestsellers lists!
I stopped writing for a while (as my real estate business began to pick up – proud to say I’m an award-winning realtor now as well!) but I am picking away at a couple of manuscripts. I’ll keep you posted!