HAVANA QUARTET HERO MARIO CONDE RETURNS
Havana, 2003, fourteen years since Mario Conde retired from the police force and much has changed in Cuba. He now makes a living trading in antique books bought from families selling off their libraries in order to survive. In the house of Alcides de Montes de Oca, a rich Cuban who fled after the fall of Batista, Conde discovers an extraordinary book collection and, buried therein, a newspaper article about Violeta del Rio, a beautiful bolero singer of the 1950’s, who disappeared mysteriously. Conde’s intuition sets him off on an investigation that leads him into a darker Cuba, now flooded with dollars, populated by pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers and other hunters of the night. But this novel also allows Padura to evoke the Havana of Batista, the city of a hundred night clubs where Marlon Brando and Josephine Baker listened to boleros, mambos and jazz. Probably Padura’s best book, Havana Fever is many things: a suspenseful crime novel, a cruel family saga and an ode to literature and his beloved, ravaged island.
This is the eighth book in which Mario Conde appears by the Cuban author Leonardo Padura and the first book of this author that I have read.
Mario ‘The Count’ Conde is no longer a Police Officer having retired over a decade before. Conde has become a dealer in books. Buying and selling antique books to make ends meet in a Cuba which is no longer supported from external governments. This Cuba is a country in which every one is struggling to survive so there are illegal bars, restaurants and people wheeling and dealing, sell their valuables – all to keep starvation at bay.
Conde lucks upon a collection of books, a huge library of antique books many are worth a lot of money. He agrees terms with the owners, Dionisio Ferrero and Amalia, his sister, to buy a number of the books. He took some immediately and agreed to come back with Yoyi, a business partner, to sort through the library. They would categorise the books indicating those that were too precious to sell, those that would fetch a good value and the books not worth as much but saleable.
It is inside one book that Conde finds a newspaper article about Violeta del Rio. She was a singer in the 1950s who suddenly disappeared from the music scene. Conde is intrigued and digs into her story becoming almost obsessed with what happened to her. It starts a chain reaction of events which brings danger and death.
Will Conde solve the riddle of Violeta? How many people will suffer or die while Conde searches for the truth?
Padura vividly conjures up Cuba in particular Havana of both 2003 and the 1950s. So different, yet so similar. The pervading underbelly of poverty, drugs, drink, brothels, casinos and clubs covered in a scant veneer of glamour and respectability in the 1950s whilst by the 2000s Cuba had become a ravaged country with that underbelly exposed and most except, no doubt, those higher echelons doing whatever they could to fend of poverty and starvation.
From the listing of precious Cuban antiquarian books, perhaps a little tedious to some but fascinating to those who love books, to the gritty streets of the ‘no go’ area of Havana; from scenes with friends, with the Ferrero’s to those of witnesses, old sources and the police Padura paints vivid pictures of Cuba and its people which opened up a new world to me.
This is a story of obsessive love and it’s repercussions, a fascinating book of love and desire – the love of books, the love and desire that Violeta aroused, the feverish and obsessive desire to resolve the mystery of Violeta’s disappearance. Whilst I enjoyed these elements of the book – books and investigation what’s not to love? – it is the love of Cuba despite all its trials and the love of friends, who are to Conde as family, that make the difference in this story which I so enjoyed.
My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join this amazing BlogTour and to Bitter Lemon Press for an eCopy of Havana Fever by Leonardo Padura in order to read and share my thoughts.
Like to read more? Then take a whirl around these wonderful blogs.
A very simplified/potted history of Cuba 1950s – 2000s
Batista, dictator of Cuba from 1952 until 1959, whose period of rule saw even greater corruption in government, military and civil servants including the police than ever before. Where the rich got richer and the poorest grasped what they could and dreamed of better times. When Batista was overthrown in 1959 he fled to the Dominican Republic. Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries had succeeded after many years of guerrilla warfare. The USSR over time and in the interest of expanding communism in Latin America backed Castro’s Cuba until its (the USSR) collapse in 1991. The end of Soviet economic aid and the loss of its trade partners in the Eastern Bloc led to an economic crisis and period of shortages known as the Special Period in Cuba. Relations with Russia, formerly the Soviet Union, ended in 2002 after the Russian Federation closed an intelligence base in Cuba over budgetary concerns. Cuba forged links with Venezuela but the 90s and 2000s were very tough times for Cuba and it’s people.
Here’s some Boleros music from VMF on YouTube.
Published: Bitter Lemon Press (January 15, 2009)
Crime Fiction Paperback £8.99 292 pages
Translator: Peter Bush
Buy: Bitter Lemon Press
Leonardo Padura was born in 1955 in Havana and lives in Cuba. He is a novelist, essayist, journalist and scriptwriter. Havana Fever has been published in Cuba, Mexico, Spain, Portugal, Germany and France.
Looking for thoughtful discussions about books and beverages? Well, you've come to the right place.
Homepage for fledgling writer Sam A. Stevens
A place to share my love of books, old and new
Thinking, writing, thinking about writing...
Book reviews by someone who loves books ...
"Vivre le livre!"
Book Reviews & More
Life is too short to read books you don't love
The Welsh Crime Writing Collective
Book Reviews & The Joy of Reading
a classics club blog
The poetry and writing of Ailsa Cawley. Welcome!
Musings about books and a blog journal
...a crime-fictional site
WordPress & Blogging tips, flash fiction, photography and lots more!
A Community of Classics Lovers
Book reviews of mainly modern & contemporary fiction
Criminally good reads
Book reviews and the occasional ramblings of a book blogger
A place for crime fiction reviews and occasional ramblings of a 40 something in York
One Girl, Too Many Books
Musings and Ramblings of a Disorganised Blogger
Shalini's Digital Reads & Promotions
No one ever reads the same book. We all react to the written word differently. The following are my opinions regarding the books I have read.
Books, travel, and other things that make life interesting
For book lovers everywhere
Book related stuff in English and Dutch!
And for summer days
Spotlight on Nordic / Scandinavian crime fiction... and connections
Escaping reality one book at a time
Reader | Writer | Blogger
The place where I put down all my thoughts and observations
A book blog with a speculative focus
Reading under the light of a Carolina moon
Each night I TRAVEL THE WORLD, I LIVE IN THE MIND OF KILLERS AND WALK AT THE SIDE OF HEROES
Celebrating the Golden Age of Detection in books and on screen
Books, reviews and more...
Life in Newcastle and beyond...
Feast your eyes on all the books that I have absolutely LOVED
Book reviews and random musings