by Leonardo Padura
Category: Fiction / Mystery
233 pages; ISBN: 1904738095
Rating: 9/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner
Bitter Lemon, Jun 2005, $13.95, 233 pp.
In 1989 the strangled corpse of a man choked to death by a red ribbon around his throat but also wearing a beautiful expensive red dress is found in the Havana Woods. Lieutenant Mario Conde leads the investigation into the homicide of Alexis Arayan, the son of a highly respected diplomat, making the case politically significant.
Mario learns that the victim lived with playwright and director Alberto Marques so he begins his inquiries with the former theater great disgraced and exiled by the government as a non because he is a homosexual. Marques gave Alexis, who fled from his family, refuge allowing the young transvestite to move into his falling apart home alongside his only treasure, books. As the case turns even darker under the tropical summer sun, Marques assists Mario on the investigation while trying not to hinder the law enforcement official due to his sexual preference branding him an outcast.
HAVANA RED is a terrific Cuban police procedural that provides a dark view of life on the island. The cast makes the story line as the audience sees first hand how a dedicated cop struggles to solve a murder mystery while the Party looks over his shoulder. Marques is a two edged sword as the government’s displeasure with him is a problem, but his access to the underground is an asset. Leonardo Padura has three more Conde novels to come in what has started off as a fantastic first tale.
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