Summary and book reviews of Havana Fever by Leonardo Padura

Havana Fever

By Leonardo Padura

Havana Fever
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  • Paperback: May 2009,
    285 pages.

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Book Summary

Havana, 2003, fourteen years since Mario Conde retired from the police force and much has changed in Cuba. He now makes a living trading in antique books bought from families selling off their libraries in order to survive. In the house of Alcides de Montes de Oca, a rich Cuban who fled after the fall of Batista, Conde discovers an extraordinary book collection and, buried therein, a newspaper article about Violeta del Rio, a beautiful bolero singer of the 1950’s, who disappeared mysteriously. Conde’s intuition sets him off on an investigation that leads him into a darker Cuba, now flooded with dollars, populated by pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers and other hunters of the night. But this novel also allows Padura to evoke the Havana of Batista, the city of a hundred night clubs where Marlon Brando and Josephine Baker listened to boleros, mambos and jazz. Probably Padura’s best book, Havana Fever is many things: a suspenseful crime novel, a cruel family saga and an ode to literature and his beloved, ravaged island.

A side: Be gone from me

. . .In your life I'll be the best
from the mists of yesterday
when you've forgotten me,
like the best poems always
the one we can't remember.

Virgilio y Homero Expósito, Be gone from me

The symptoms hit him suddenly, like a voracious wave sweeping a child off a quiet shore and dragging him into the depths of the sea: a lethal double blow to the stomach, numbness that turned his legs to jelly, a cold sweat on his palms and, above all, the searing pain, under his left nipple, which accompanied every single hunch he’d ever had.

As soon as the doors to the library slid open, the smell of old paper and hallowed places floating in that mind-blowing room overwhelmed him. In his far-off years as a police detective, Mario Conde had learnt to recognize the physical signs of his situation-saving hunches: he must have been wondering if he’d ever experienced such a powerful flood of sensations.

Initially he was all set to...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Purely as a mystery novel, Havana Fever is top-notch and a terrific example of modern noir.

The real highlight of the book, though, is Padura's rich and evocative writing style. He brilliantly conjures up both the smoky nightclubs of Batista's Havana in the 1950s and the city's present poverty, comparing and contrasting the two different eras. Both are dark, gritty and rife with corruption. The modern scenes in particular are cloaked in an oppressive, unrelenting gloom that doesn't begin to lift until the book's final pages. The writing is almost poetic at times.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Full Review Members Only (1141 words).

Media Reviews
The Independent (UK)

...Full of atmosphere and descriptions to savour, this is as much a life-affirming tribute to Havana as a fine novel of death and detection.

The Times (UK)

The finest crime-fiction writer in the Spanish language...

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Part biblio-mystery, part tragedy and all brilliant.

Library Journal

Padura portrays the dark underbelly of today's Havana with insight and a deep sadness.

Reader Reviews
lani

what a treat
Thank goodness for Book Browse! I never would have heard of this book and missed one of the terrific treats in life. Having been to Cuba, this book even resonated more. The writing is superb and the smoky haunts of the clubs resonates on every page. ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Cuban Bolero
The Cuban bolero is the first internationally recognized music form to originate in Cuba. Closely related to trovador songs and habaneras, boleros are songs of romance, featuring themes of love and heartbreak. The music is most often slow, sensual and deeply romantic.

The Cuban bolero is often confused with the Spanish bolero. The two forms arose independently, apparently neither influencing the other. Whereas the Spanish bolero is always in 3/4 time, the Cuban version is in 2/4 or 4/4. In addition, the Cuban version is heavily influenced by African-based rhythms. The two styles are danced differently, as well; the Spanish bolero has couples dancing apart, while the Cuban bolero is danced by couples ...

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