This week's OFF THE SHELF novel is also listed in the SCRLreads blog.
Have you been to Cuba recently? Shortly, thousands of Canadians will visit that country, but I would suggest that very few will get an appreciation for what life is like for its residents. Peggy Blair, in The Beggar’s Opera, tells us about a side of Cuba that tourists rarely see.
In the novel, Mike Ellis, a Canadian detective, is visiting old Havana. He hopes that a few weeks of relaxation will save his troubled marriage. While walking down the Malecon with his wife, he gives a few pecos to a boy begging in the street. Unbeknownst to Mike, this small kindness sets in motion a series of events that has him facing murder charges, prison, and the death penalty. The lead inspector is the very likeable Ricardo Ramirez; a good man trying to do his job without the basic resources that we take for granted (like gasoline, and pencils). He and the forensic pathologist become caught up in a case that has more twists and turns than a Havana back alley.
In the novel, Celia Jones, a Canadian lawyer, points out that “Havana had two faces: the one the tourists saw and the real one.” Blair exposes the stifling bureaucracy, shortages, and depravity, all the while preserving the dignity of the citizens. Celia Jones also observes, “There was great kindness in this country”.
To listen to Shelagh Rogers' interview with Peggy Blair, click here.