Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Havana Gold-Leonardo Padura

Havana Gold
Leonardo Padura
Bitter Lemon, Jun 2008, $14.95
ISBN 9781904738282

In 1989 Cuban police detective Mario Conde hates being a cop as he would have preferred to be a writer. However, no matter how he tries to romanticize his existence, he must eat and so cop he is. Drinking helps him when state sponsored corruption interferes with his investigation.

His current case makes him want to quit in order to turn into a 24/7 alcoholic. Someone murdered pretty Pre-University High School schoolteacher, Lissette Nunez Delgado. This particular inquiry hits home as Conde went to school here when he dreamed of becoming a Cuban Hemingway. As he interviews the headmaster, staff and pupils, Conde wonders what happened to his dreams and those of his countrymen.

The fourth Havana police procedural is a great tale (likes its colorful predecessors) that follows one year in the life of a dedicated cynical Cuban cop. The story line is fast-paced as Conde investigates the murder of a young popular teacher, but runs into bureaucracy from the school and his superiors. However, the key to this saga remains the disenchanted hero who struggles to do his job properly, which to him means solving the case, but to others connotes satisfying the state and the Party.

Harriet Klausner