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Hungry Ghosts: An Inspector Ramirez Novel by…

Hungry Ghosts: An Inspector Ramirez Novel

by Peggy Blair

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Hungry Ghosts is the first novel by Peggy Blair that I’ve consumed. I enjoyed this book tremendously and with its relatively short chapters I would often say to myself; “oh.. just one more”. This my friends, got me into trouble a few times!!! (Oh come on, you’ve done it before, I know you have)

Two detectives, two series of murders, two different countries… how does this all tie together? That is what I was thinking throughout the novel and by the end, I was not disappointed. Blair connects the two seamlessly.

In Hungry Ghosts we find Detective Ramirez in Cuba fighting crime and examining a string of unsolved murders in a corrupt and crumbling Cuba, all the while dealing with ghostly apparitions. Up north in Canada, Detective Charlie Pike comes home to a tense First Nations reserve, investigating what may be another Highway Stranger murder all the while, facing his own ghosts.

Although Hungry Ghosts is the third book in the detective Ramirez series, it can easily be read as a stand-alone. I’ve never read the other two, but after reading this one… I want them in my library.

Blair infused this novel with rich characters, vivid locations and a brilliantly twisted plot. I particularly loved that the book touches on events we see in the media today. (Even though the book is set in 2007) Just this morning while listening to the CBC they were talking about residential schools, land settlements and the disappearance and murder of Aboriginal women. ( )
  LostRain | Dec 18, 2015 |
I am a huge fan of Peggy Blair's Inspector Ramirez series. The third book - Hungry Ghosts - has just released.

From the opening pages, I slipped back into the world of Inspector Ramirez of the Havana, Cuba police department. Ramirez is called to investigate an art exhibit vandalization. While there, a ghost joins him. Yes, Ramirez sees the dead - specifically the murdered. And one of those now following him is another dead prostitute - strangled with a pair of stockings.

Up in the colder climates of Canada, Detective Charlie Pike is also called to the murder of a dead woman on the Manomin Bay First Nation Reserve. She too has a stocking around her neck......

Blair's plotting is meticulous, inventive and oh, so well played. The two investigations mirror each other, from the crimes, the detectives, the metaphysical, politics and more. The cases are told in alternating chapters, guaranteeing that 'just one more chapter' late night read. Lots of twists and turns tie the two cases together in a most unexpected manner.

The plotting is rich, but so are the settings. The details surrounding both locales give the reader a vivid picture of both Havana and Northern Ontario, using architecture, the natural world, rules, laws, attitudes and language to bring both sites to life. I am fairly familiar with the First Nations lore and location, but did indeed learn something new. I am constantly fascinated by the details of Havana and the descriptions of what is not there (soap, meat and more) the limitations placed on the citizens, the city and land, as well as the customs and culture.

Blair winds social commentary about both countries throughout her novels to great effect. The novel is set in 2007 and many news/historical events are referenced, such as residential schools and Guantanamo Bay. This reality gives the books added depth.

But it is the characters of Ramirez and coroner Hector Apiro that have captured me. Ramirez is one of the last few honest cops left on Havana's force (although he does borrow rum from the evidence locker). He's dogged and determined and deftly weaves his way through the political mire of the department and country to achieve results. Seeing the dead only adds to the plot and the characters. Apiro's mind is brilliant and his personal storyline is both unique and moving. However, with this third novel, I found the character of Charlie Pike appealing to me just as much. His personal storyline is just as rich and compelling. Supporting players are just as well drawn.

The title? "...there are three kinds of ghosts. There are orphan ghosts, who have no children to honour them properly. There are the ghosts of those who die violently, who sometimes come back for revenge. And then there are the hungry ghosts, the ones who can't feed themselves enough no matter how hard they try. Most murdered women are hungry ghosts."

Hungry Ghosts was another satisfying read on so many levels. And an excellent addition to a wonderful series. Absolutely recommended - I'll be waiting for the next book. Hungry Ghosts could certainly be read as a stand alone, but I really recommend you read the first two books - The Poisoned Pawn and The Beggar's Opera. They're both just as good and you'll get to know the characters from the beginning. ( )
  Twink | Jul 7, 2015 |
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Blair grows more assured with each novel, and in Hungry Ghosts, she shapes all the elements in each of the three plots — the heist tale makes a comeback late in the book — into coherent and related whodunits. As a bonus, Blair rewards readers with enlightenment about the perils of ordinary life both in Cuba and on Canadian aboriginal reserves. Cuba has the edge in weather, but otherwise the living is equally cruel in both locales.
Peggy Blair’s first novel, The Beggar’s Opera, signalled that something special might be brewing. Her second book, The Poisoned Pawn saw the Ottawa lawyer turned mystery maven take a real step forward.

But the third mystery is really proving the charm. Hungry Ghosts is one of the best mysteries to come out of Ottawa this or any year....Two seemingly disparate investigations, two countries, two cultures — still the complexity of the story lines is handled deftly. The reader is not left behind nor left confused.

But another part of the genius of this novel is Blair’s on-going exploration of cultures with which the average Canadian reader is not necessarily familiar.

These portraits set her novels apart from the run-of-the-mill genre mystery. This book is full of delightful small stories of lives in communist Havana and in aboriginal Canada...And with the establishment of two strong central characters — Ramirez and Pike — Blair has the makings of two mystery series with some real staying power.
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Ah, if only I had brought a cigar with me! This would have established my identity. - Charles Dickens
For Roddie Blair (1916-2013)
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Inspector Ricardo Ramirez whistled as he carried a battered kettle to the washroom on the thirteeneth floor of the medical tower.
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amazon ca Inspector Ricardo Ramirez investigates a string of dead prostitutes from Cuba to Canada in this carefully constructed mystery from award-winning author Peggy Blair.

Murders always multiply when there’s a full moon, Inspector Ricardo Ramirez knows. As he’s investigating a vandal in the art world, a ghost appears by Ramirez’s side…a sure sign that another murder victim is on the way. Ramirez’s fears are confirmed when a dead prostitute is found in Havana with nylons wrapped tightly around her neck, an MO that connects to his only cold case.

When another woman’s body is discovered in a similar condition on a First Nation reserve in Northern Ontario, Detective Charlie Pike struggles to determine whether the murder is a standalone crime or if the Highway Strangler has struck again. Before long, both detectives find themselves tracking a killer whose reach extends further than they could have imagined.

As the pressure mounts, Inspector Ramirez has to piece together the clues and track down an international serial killer before his government silences him.
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