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 1950s, who disappeared mysteriously. Condes 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 Paduras 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.
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).
Starred Review. Part biblio-mystery, part tragedy and all brilliant.
Padura portrays the dark underbelly of today's Havana with insight and a deep sadness.
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...
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by 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... Read More
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 who are touching.
It is believed that the first Cuban bolero was composed by Jose Pepe Sanchez,
a natural musician with no training or ability to read music. Much of what he
wrote is lost, but some of his compositions were fortunately recorded for
posterity by others who recognized the songs as revolutionary....
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