Reviews of The Poisoned Pawn!


“When it comes to visiting Cuba, it helps to be Canadian. Peggy Blair, a Canadian lawyer unfettered by travel restrictions, made the most of a 2006 Christmas holiday in Old Havana, which became the setting of “The Beggar’s Opera,” a well-crafted procedural with a detective who is haunted by the victims in his homicide cases. Inspector Ricardo Ramirez of the Cuban National Revolutionary Police returns in THE POISONED PAWN, pursued by the specter of an old woman dressed in white and with a knife in her heart, found in “an unofficial temple for the worshipers of Santería gods” known as Blind Alley. Even while he’s pursued by this impatient ghost, Ramirez is a wonderful guide — hiding nothing but hoping we’ll look past the poverty, hardship and political corruption to see the beauty and humanity of his battered city.” New York Times

“Blair follows up her outstanding debut, The Beggar’s Opera (2013), with another superb crime novel … Blair brilliantly unspools her tightly wound plot, revealing more than one shocker in the process. This is a fine series with a thoroughly outstanding cast—not only Ramirez, a wonderful blend of befuddlement and shrewdness, but also Havana pathologist Hector Apiro, whose bone-deep cynicism masks a sensitive soul, and the Canadian lawyer Celia Jones, who can’t seem to stay out of harm’s way. Expect to hear much more about this series; it’s just waiting to be discovered in the big way it deserves.” — Bill Ott, Booklist Starred Review

 “’Blair’s writing is intelligent, sharp and finely paced,’ says Montrealer Jacques Filippi, author of the blog The House of Crime and Mystery. “Her stories are dark but dashed with hope: they concentrate on the human condition—as much for the dead as for the living—with great sensitivity and a well-timed sense of humor.” Kirkus Reviews

“In Blair’s The Beggar’s Opera, shortlisted for the Crime Writer’s Association’s Debut Dagger Award, Det. Mike Ellis was cleared of murdering a young beggar while on vacation in Old Havana. Now he’s home in Canada, accused of murdering his estranged wife, even as Inspector Ramirez of the Havana Major Crimes Unit arrives to take custody of a Cuban priest. Blair must be good, as she had neither agent nor publisher when she submitted The Beggar’s Opera for the CWA award; through Ian Rankin, whom she met at the ceremony, she got both.” Library Journal

“[The Beggar’s Opera] is a snappin’ good mystery and a well-informed look at Cuban justice. ‘The Poisoned Pawn’ is also cleverly bipolar, pun intended. Not only do we get to observe Ramirez torn from his tropical clime and thrust into the bitterly cold Ottawa winter, we’re introduced to an interesting Canadian ensemble that merits more than a sidebar. Round three for Ms. Blair may require a duo.”  Crime Book Beat

“Peggy Blair writes like an author possessed, with story-telling skills that make her a must-read writer beyond the mystery genre. The Poisoned Pawn, a follow-up to her debut hit, The Beggar’s Opera, triggers caution in this reviewer in choosing adjectives that cannot do justice to the emotions this story provokes. The Poisoned Pawn is fiction rooted in painful reality. The depth transcends physical, emotional and religious borders. Evil needs no passport….Using a good mystery plot, Blair uses layers of political deceit and religious deviance as means to an end. Little justice is served, and the depths of political expediency are exposed. Blair can tell a story with the best that Canada has to offer.” Hamilton Spectator

“It’s genius. And very complicated. Not for the reader who wants everything to unfold logically and clearly or the one who wants the solutions presented on a platter, THE POISONED PAWN is startling and rather amazing and requires an effort on the part of the reader to ‘get it.’ The threads don’t all get snipped off or tied up. Ramirez will be back.” Diana Borse, Reviewingtheevidence.com

“Hard on the heels of her debut novel, Peggy Blair has fashioned a second gripping puzzle for readers, one like her first rooted in contemporary events, set against an informed depiction of life in Cuba and drawing on traditional folklore. Her layered and atmospheric tale will appeal to readers in search of a well-crafted read with inventive subplots, unique characters, and topical social themes.” Jim Napier, Reviewingtheevidence.com

“The book is a love story to Cuba … compelling characters and story lines that come together in interesting ways. It is a very fine and atmospheric read.” June Lorraine, Murder in Common

“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.” The Guelph Mercury

“Inspector  Ramirez returns in The Poisoned Pawn  still guided and haunted by ghostly visions of crime victims past, with a straightforward but stomach-clenching mission direct from Castro’s ministry: fly to Ottawa and fetch an elderly Catholic priest in possession of child pornography so the Cubans can deal with the man. The story treads dark and nasty territory, but Blair sidesteps the impulse to wallow in graphic violence by sticking to her characters’ actions and motivations…  The Poisoned Pawn shows there is a way to hold onto decency and humanity in the face of the worst criminality.”  Sarah Weinman, National Post

“If you, like me, somehow managed to miss Peggy Blair’s debut novel, The Beggar’s Opera, then you should read this second book and then run to get the first. Let’s hope there’s a third in the works.”  Margaret Cannon, Globe and Mail

“The plot comes together nicely in a Hollywood-style ending, which extends from ordinary people with murderous intent to international conspiracies at the highest level.” Chronicle-Journal

“Blair shows a real flair for character. Ramirez is a unique, exotic and fascinating individual, as is Apiro. So too is the Canadian police officer Charlie Pike, who is a First Nations person, a member of the Anishnabe nation. Blair’s experience in First Nations law comes shining through in this novel. But it’s the Cuban story that really makes it sing.” Ottawa Citizen

“Two crime novels. Two resounding successes. 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. 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… Blair’s prose is evocative, nary a word amiss.” Vancouver Sun

“An affecting series … Even if impoverished and politically oppressed Havana presents unique burdens, Ramirez is not without a sense of humour as he goes about his clever sleuthing.” Jack Batten, Whodunit, Sunday Star

“The plot is intricate, intriguing and surprising…. There is plenty of death – innocent, inadvertent, coolly calculated, retributive – and there is plenty of subtle strategizing as the stakes mount for both countries. Justice will be done, be assured, but in the process, shortcuts will be taken, extralegal tactics deployed, and culpability held to account in ways that stretch the ethical parameters … a  sometimes strikingly unconventional plot. We haven’t seen the last of Ramirez.” New Brunswick Telegraph Journal

“Blair… has found a winner in crumbling old Havana with Ramirez, a man haunted both by his country and unsolved crimes. 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.”  Owen Sound Sun Times

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