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Havana Black by Leonardo Padura
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When the news comes through that his chief for the last eight years, Major Antonio Rangel, is to be replaced, as a result of investigations that require a scapegoat, Detective Lieutenant Mario Conde (the Count), a few days short of his 36th birthday, requests a discharge, and goes home to drown his sorrows in a bottle.

Havana is lying in wait for Hurricane Felix. Conde has been watching it's progress, convinced that despite it's meanderings Havana is the hurricane's target. Conde's new boss sends Sergeant Manuel Palacios to his home to bring him in. He has a proposition for him. Conde is being offered one last job, and then he will be allowed to leave smelling of roses. The new boss Colonel Molina is an officer from Military Intelligence and he knows little about police work but he knows he needs Conde to deal with the hot potato that has just arrived.

A man's corpse has been found. A Cuban with US citizenship who'd come to see his dying father. He'd been thrown into the sea after being battered by a baseball bat. His penis and testicles had been cut off after death with a blunt knife. In the 1960s he had been the deputy head of the Provincial Office for Expropriated Porperty, and in 1978 as national deputy director for Planning and the Economy he had made a trip to the Soviet Union, stopped off in Madrid on the way back, and defected to the USA. Since then he'd been living in Florida. So the big question was: why had he come back to Cuba?

Conde agrees that he will take on the case, that he will solve it in 3 days, and in return he wants to be able to consult his former boss Rangel, and to get a letter of discharge.

I didn't find HAVANA BLACK an easy read, possibly because it wasn't the first in the series and I wasn't already acquainted with Mario Conde. Initially I found the interchangeable use of Conde and Count confusing and thought there must be a second character. Then there were large sections of the book where I just wanted to get on with the story, and fast passage was halted by pages of unparagraphed text. There were long passages dredging up detail from Conde's past, descriptions of Havana, and Conde, who wants to be a writer in his next life, philosophising.
I was impatient for the initial question to be solved. Why did the dead man return to Havana when he must have known that, although twenty years had passed since his defection, his life could be in danger?

Well, we got there eventually and I breathed a sigh of relief. I read this as my 19th novel in the 2010 Global Reading Challenge, and yes I did learn something of life in Cuba. ( )
  smik | Nov 13, 2010 |
Atter en dejig bog om Mario Conde, den skrivende kriminalmand, der drukner sin utilfredshed med livet i rom og mad (og tanker om kvinder). ( )
  msc | May 19, 2009 |
Lt. Mario Conde is attempting to leave the police force at the same time he is solving the murder of an exile who has returned to Cuba to retrieve something of value. Hurricane Felix is bearing down on the island. Conde and his close friends are questioning their lack of control over their own lives and are exploring their own opportunities for escape. The effects of loss and corruption permeate the story and the lives of the characters. ( )
  Hagelstein | Feb 21, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 190473815X, Paperback)

Praise for Havana Red, the first of the Lt. Conde series:

“Another winner from Bitter Lemon…an innovative take on the traditional detective story. A macho cop whose investigation into the murder of a transvestite leads him to ruminate on his own attraction to this ‘philosophy of mimetics and erasure.’"—The New York Times

“A scorching novel from a star of Cuban fiction. Conde’s quest follows the basic rhythm of the whodunit, but Padura syncopates it with brilliant literary riffs on Cuban sex, society, religion, even food.”—Independent

The brutally mutilated body of Miguel Forcade is discovered washed up on a Havana beach. Head smashed in by a baseball bat, genitals cut off by a dull knife. Forcade was once responsible for the confiscation of art works from the bourgeoisie fleeing the revolution. Had he really returned from exile just to visit his ailing father?

The novel evokes the disillusion of a generation, many of them veterans of the war in Angola, discovering the corruption of those who preceded them. Yet it is a eulogy of Cuba, its life of music, sex and the great friendships of the people who elected to stay and fight for survival.

Leonardo Padura was born in 1955 in Havana and lives in Cuba. He is a prize-winning novelist, essayist, journalist, and scriptwriter.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:44 -0400)

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When a brutally mutilated body is discovered washed up in the bay of Havana, Mario Conde is soon immersed in the dark history of expropriations of works of art, paintings that have vanished without trace.

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