The BookBrowse Review

Published June 9, 2021

ISSN: 1930-0018

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The BookBrowse Review

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  • Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson , et al (rated 5/5)

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Extras
Book Jacket

The Transparency of Time
Mario Conde Investigates #9
by Leonardo Padura
15 Jun 2021
416 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Genre: Mysteries
Critics:
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From Leonardo Padura - whose crime novels featuring Detective Mario Conde form the basis of Netflix's Four Seasons in Havana - The Transparency of Time sees the Cuban investigator pursuing a mystery spanning centuries of occult history.

Mario Conde is facing down his sixtieth birthday. What does he have to show for his decades on the planet? A failing body, a slower mind, and a decrepit country, in which both the ideals and failures of the Cuban Revolution are being swept away in favor of a new and newly cosmopolitan worship of money.

Rescue comes in the form of a new case: an old Marxist turned flamboyant practitioner of Santería appears on the scene to engage Conde to track down a stolen statue of the Virgen de Regla―a black Madonna. This sets Conde on a quest that spans twenty-first century Havana as well as the distant past, as he delves as far back as the Crusades in an attempt to uncover the true provenance of the statue.

Through vignettes from the life of a Catalan peasant named Antoni Barral, who appears throughout history in different guises―as a shepherd during the Spanish Civil War, as vassal to a feudal lord―we trace the Madonna to present-day Cuba. With Barral serving as Conde's alter ego, unstuck in time, and Conde serving as the author's, we are treated to a panorama of history, and reminded of the impossibility of ever remaining on its sidelines, no matter how obscure we may think our places in the action.

Equal parts The Name of the Rose and The Maltese Falcon, The Transparency of Time cements Leonardo Padura's position as the preeminent literary crime writer of our time.

"Dressed in the grungy trappings of a crime drama, this literary tour-de-force from Padura offers a colorful cultural history of Cuba and the island's historical contact with Europe that helped to shape its people's religious beliefs...Padura's novel will appeal equally to genre fans and lovers of literary thrillers." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A socially revealing procedural by noted novelist Padura, the laureate of Havana...An elegant blend of mystery and sociology by one of Cuba's most accomplished writers." - Kirkus Reviews

Leonardo Padura was born in 1955 in Havana and lives in Cuba. He has published a number of short-story collections and literary essays but international fame came with the Havana Quartet, all featuring Inspector Mario Conde.

Like many others of his generation, Padura had faced the question of leaving Cuba, particularly in the late 80s and early 90s, when living conditions deteriorated sharply as Russian aid evaporated. He chose to stay. And to write beautiful ironic novels in which Soviet-style socialism is condemned by implication through scenes of Havana life where even the police are savagely policed.

The crime novels feed on the noises and smells of Havana, on the ability of its inhabitants to keep joking, to make love and music, to drink rum, and to survive through petty crime such as running clandestine bars and restaurants.

The Inspector Mario Conde Series to Date

Pasado perfecto (1991) (Havana Blue, 2007)
Vientos de cuaresma (1994) (Havana Gold, 2008)
Mascaras (1997). (Havana Red, 2005)
Paisaje de otoño (1998) (Havana Black, 2006)
La Neblina de Ayer (Havana Fever 2009)
Adiós Hemingway (2005, novella); published with same title in English in 2006 - the first of his books to be translated into English.
La cola de la serpiente (2011) (not yet available in English)
El hombre que amaba a los perros (2009) (The Man Who Loved Dogs, 2014)
Herejes 2013 (Heretics, 2017)

The Inspector Mario Conde books are translated from Spanish into English by Peter Bush, well known for his extensive work on Juan Goytisolo. He has also completed translations of Daniel Chavarria, Nuria Amat and Pedro de Alarcón.

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