Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Review: The Beggar's Opera

I've been escaping reality -- mostly that of torrid heat -- by reading mysteries during the past week or so. Generally, the Brits, do murder mysteries the best, or at least their environment seems better suited for that sort of plot. This is so true that some American mystery writers, such as Elizabeth George and Martha Grimes, set their plots on the other side of the pond. Of course, this is not to say that I never read American mysteries and that they are never good reads.

So .... I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I picked up Peggy Blair's, The Beggar's Opera. Mind you that's a bit of a lie since I had already read the sequel, The Poisoned Pawn, but the general idea still holds. In fact, I been sufficiently intrigued with Pawn to search out Opera.

Her detective protagonist is Inspector Ramirez of Havana. Yes, the book is set in Cuba. Therefore, one learns a fair amount of the politics culture and living conditions of the country while following the plot. Blair is also a Canadian living in my hometown of Ottawa, so there is a significant Canadian/Ottawa connection in both books. In point of fact, it is an Ottawa detective who is charged with murder in Cuba, and it is an Ottawa lawyer who flies to Cuba and helps Ramirez to solve the case. The second book also features a trip to Ottawa by Ramirez in the middle of a January freeze.

Not only is it fascinating to learn about Cuba, but Ramirez is enticing in his own right, for he is a man who is visited by the ghosts of the people whose cases that he is trying to solve. Are the ghosts real or is he experiencing disease-wrought hallucinations? And will we ever know the answer for sure.

Not only is the character a clever departure from the typical detective protagonist, but so are many twists and turns in the narrative. Some mysteries are pretty straight-ahead affairs, but this reader was frequently surprised by her unfolding of events.

Although this novel is complete in itself, Blair set it up so that the next episode, The Poisoned Pawn, occurs within a week of the first with a most definite tie-in with The Beggar's Opera.

Try it, if you are a fan this genre and would like to read a refreshingly different setting and approach. Like me, you will probably hope to see more of Inspector Ramirez in the future.

Note: If you wish to read a real review from a real critic at a real newspaper, just click this link. Also, here is a link to the book on the American version of Amazon.

8 comments:

peggyblair said...

Glad you enjoyed the books! Hungry Ghosts will be out either next June or the following January -- we're in edits now. I actually think it's the best of the three; hope readers agree! Thanks for the great review! Cheers, Peggy

peggyblair said...

Glad you enjoyed the books! Hungry Ghosts will be out either next June or the following January -- we're in edits now. I actually think it's the best of the three; hope readers agree! Thanks for the great review! Cheers, Peggy

Anvilcloud said...

Peggy, thanks for your comment on my little blog post. In keeping it brief, I didn't get around to mentioning the delightful "coroner" and his unusual partner and was thinking that was quite an omission. Sorry, I never remember names. :)

Looking forward to the next installment.

peggyblair said...

Hector Apiro and Maria Vasquez are two of my favourite characters! Sorry for spamming your blog; not sure why my comment posted twice
:-(

Regenia said...

Will have to read this and the previous two posts when time is not so tight. But from just a very quick look, sounds really different and like something I would want to search out.

Donna said...

Well, I Love a good English mystery!
I'll be checking this out Ac...Thanks for the heads up...
hughugs

(I'm in the middle of watching ALL 85 episodes of Midsomer Murders on our ROKU system...Love Barnaby!)

Ginnie said...

It's so neat that Peggy Blair commented on your blog, AC. I've never heard of her and am not usually a reader of mysteries but I think I'll give this one a try.
Thanks for the review.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Based on your hearty recommendation and the author's comments we well, I will check if our local library has any of her works. Two favorite mystery writers include Ms. George and also Donna Leon who is a native of my home state (NJ) and now lives and writes in Italy. Her character Inspector Brunneti is based in Venice.