Juan, a Cuban construction worker who has settled in Albuquerque, returns to Havana for the first time since fleeing Cuba by raft twenty years ago. He is traveling with his American wife, Sharon, and hopes to reconnect with Victor, his best friend from college—and, unbeknownst to Sharon, he also hopes to discover what has become of two ex-girlfriends, Elsa and Rosita.
Juan is surprised to learn that Victor has become Victoria and runs a popular drag show at the local hot spot Café Arabia. Elsa has married a wealthy foreigner, and Rosita, still single, works at the Havana cemetery. When one of these women turns up dead, it will cost Padrino, a Santería priest and former detective on the Havana police force, more than he expects to untangle the group’s lies and hunt down the killer.
What I Thought:
A really interesting second Havana Mystery from Teresa Dovalpage. I read Death Comes in Through the Kitchen and Queen of Bones follows that up with more from Havana through the eyes of a non-resident.
In this instance, though, Juan is returning to Cuba from the US after escaping on a raft with his best friend, years before. What Juan didn’t know was the tangled web he left behind him.
There is lots of interesting background in this book for someone like me, who has only a rudimentary knowledge of the political situation in Cuba, and it’s valuable to have someone like Teresa Dovalpage writing about it from her unique perspective of being born in Cuba, but living in the US.
There is more of an emphasis in this book on the religious traditions in Cuba which are widespread, despite many years of political oppression. Padrino, the detective from the first book, has now retired and become a Santeria priest. He features firstly in the dramatic opening of the book, then can’t stop himself becoming involved when a murder is committed.
Alongside the great background, we mustn’t forget that this novel is a murder mystery, with a gripping plot before we finally find out who the wrong ‘un was. At first, it seems as though Juan’s old friend Victor – now a club singer called Victoria – may have been the victim of a hate crime, but it’s much more intricate than that!
A really interesting read, with some fantastic descriptions of the sights and sounds of Havana, it’s definitely worth picking up.
Queen of Bones is published by Soho Press.
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Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.